Shasta’s Alyssa Pope signs her National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to play softball at the University of Pennsylvania as her family watches. Pope hit .600 last season for the Wolves and carries a 4.3 grade point average. (Photo by Aaron Williams / Shasta County Sports)
About 40 people gathered Wednesday in the Shasta High School library to watch Wolves junior Alyssa Pope sign her National Letter of Intent to play softball at the University of Pennsylvania.
Parents Rich and Tina, family members, friends, coaches, teammates and former teammates joined the Pope family for the short signing ceremony and cake afterward.
As Shasta coach Dennis Cahill, as well as a few others in the audience, spoke glowingly about Pope, she smiled and blushed as her stats were rattled off and stories told about the road from rec softball league to the Ivy League.
“I’m not one for taking a whole lot of compliments,” Pope laughed afterward, adding that being a catcher means “I’m behind the scenes.”
But the facts about her softball abilities are undeniable. As a junior, she hit .600 (fifth best in the section) with seven home runs and 30 RBIs. For her three-year varsity career, Pope has a .453 average with 129 hits, 80 RBIs, 84 runs scored and 17 home runs. She’s also not a typical catcher in that she has a speed game, having stolen 44 bases in 48 attempts. She’s been a first team All Eastern Athletic League pick all three years and All Northern Section last season.
“The biggest thing is her positive attitude about everything,” Cahill said. “She’s always got a smile on her face and always wants to do well and do well for her teammates.”
And as impressive as the softball stats are, the academic stats are equally as impressive. Pope, who wants to become a psychiatrist, carries a 4.3 grade point average.
“I wanted a school that was going to mix my intellectual desires and athletic desires, so Penn was a perfect one,” she said.
Pope is the third Shasta softball player to ink a Division I or II letter of intent in the past four years, joining McKenzie Oakes at Northwest Nazarene University and Mia Camuso, who was in attendance Wednesday, at the University of Oregon.
Former Shasta coach Becky Love spoke to the audience and congratulated Pope and her family, telling a story about how a wide-eye freshman came into her counseling office and told her that she was going to work to play softball at an Ivy League school.
“This really doesn’t happen that often, but she loves the game and the position,” Love said. “This day isn’t a surprise.”
For her part, Pope said she fell in love with the game, and specifically the catcher position, watching Mia Camuso’s older sister, Samantha, playing for UCLA when Pope was 11 years old.
“After I watched Sam at UCLA as a catcher I knew that’s what I wanted to play,” she said.
But it took countless hours of practice and countless miles traveling to travel ball practice and tournaments on the weekends. Her father, Rich, told tales of nightly hitting practice, while old youth coaches talked about coming over and seeing Alyssa duck walking in the street to work on the catcher’s crouch.
“There were a lot of late nights on the road where I was doing homework in the car,” she said. “But if it wasn’t for softball and all the hard work I’ve put in, I don’t think I’d be going to Penn.”
She said the hard work and friendships have made the journey worthwhile adding that “Any time you’re working for a goal you have to half-believe it’s not going to happen. That makes you work harder for it.”
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