Jaeda McFarland's Worldly Experiences Fuel Softball Success
Maryland’s Jaeda McFarland attended three high schools and spent two years in Bahrain while growing up, but that has not slowed her down from being the Terrapins' best player over the last three seasons.
Maryland’s center fielder, who started all 57 games her team played in 2023, attended high school in Hawaii, Kansas and Florida. McFarland was a four-year varsity softball player during high school and was named the Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) District 6 All-Star Team MVP in 2020.
Throughout the moves she experienced, she was able to learn different things from each team she played on.
“Each location I was in, I was put in different roles on each team,” McFarland said. “(I learned) how to be a leader, how to be someone who listens, how to be someone who cares for others. It helped develop my character into what I like to say is well-rounded.”
Along with traveling during high school, McFarland spent her third and fourth grade years in Bahrain, a small country in the Middle East. In Bahrain, she played baseball, not starting softball until fifth grade, and has memories of playing on a travel team called Team Bahrain. The team would travel to Dubai to compete in a tournament each summer.
Playing sports outside of the United States gave her a unique perspective, McFarland said.
“It was neat to see that sports translate to more than just the U.S.,” McFarland said. “A lot of the time, people are like, ‘baseball and softball are sports confined to the U.S.’ Being able to go to another country and still learn and play a sport that most people wouldn't associate with that country was a really neat experience.”
With her senior season of college softball approaching, McFarland could be playing professionally in the near future. Through three collegiate seasons, McFarland has proven she can produce at the plate, leading Maryland in batting average (.354), hits (63), runs (42), doubles (12) and triples (6) in 2023.
The people she credits her work ethic to are her parents. With her father often away on deployments, McFarland’s mother, Crystal, often did most of the caretaking for Jaeda and her brother while they were growing up.
“For (my parents) to be able to juggle as much as they’re juggling and still make time for their kids, and still have a successful career, that to me is something that’s really inspiring and leads me to believe I can do those things as well,” McFarland added.
On the field, McFarland’s travel ball coach throughout high school, Price Hansen, played a major role in her career. Hansen, the founder of Easton Preps, now called Preps Academy, coaches and trains players, preparing them to play collegiate softball.
McFarland spent three seasons in California with Hansen, with whom she lived along with other out-of-state players on the travel team.
“He opened my eyes up to all the things I could do with softball,” McFarland said.
Hansen was right, McFarland has made a big impact as a Terrapin. During her time in College Park, she has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and selected as a First-Team All-Big Ten selection. Most recently, during her junior season, McFarland was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team and All-Big Ten Defensive Team.
In each of her three seasons at Maryland, the team has gotten progressively better, improving its winning percentage from .432 in 2021, to .558 in 2022 and .667 this past season. This spring, the Terrapins ended a 10-year postseason drought, playing in the National Invitational Softball Championship (NISC).
One of the highlights from this past season for McFarland and her team was defeating then-ranked No. 3 Oklahoma State on Feb. 12. It was UMD’s first ranked win against a top-three team in over five years.
“Beating Oklahoma State was a really neat experience for us and showed our team what we were capable of,” McFarland stated.
Maryland made big strides as a program in 2023, recording its highest wins-total (38) since the program won 40 games in 2011.
“Moving forward into next year, with the challenges we faced and the things we learned about our team and ourselves as individual players, we’re only going to be better,” McFarland said.
According to McFarland, there’s still work Maryland needs to do in order to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
“We don't know what the Maryland feeling is like, and we want to figure out what the best we can be is,” McFarland said. “We want to continue to push and get better and take Maryland to an all-time high.”