Jessie Warren's Gold Glove Carries Meaning Beyond Softball
Jessie Warren’s smile broke through the tears when she was named the 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove winner during the annual National Pro Fastpitch Awards Banquet in Rosemont, Ill. last week.
“I was literally shaking in bed,” she told Softball America. “I was a little bit nervous.”
In 38 games this summer, Warren made one error in 98 chances at third base for the USSSA Pride. Her season came to an early end on Aug. 3 when she became concussed on a play at the plate at USSSA Space Coast Stadium against the Chicago Bandits.
Due to the concussion, she wasn’t able to travel, but she attended the awards ceremony via FaceTime on her teammate Bianka Bell’s phone.
As soon as she heard her name called and the room erupt with cheers, the emotions flooded Warren and she immediately thought of her travel ball coach, Sherman Johnson.
“It was super emotional. That’s why I was crying,” Warren said. “I was super, super blessed to be able to get nominated for the award, but I was super excited and it was just a special moment for me.”
Johnson passed away from cancer in 2017. If not for him, Warren believes she would not be where she is today.
“I’m definitely excited and proud that she won it,” said Johnson’s son, Sherman Johnson Jr. “It’s kind of like a big brother moment. It doesn’t surprise us, but I’m definitely proud. She’s seeing what we all knew she was capable of doing.”
Warren grew up in a broken home. Her father wasn’t around much and she was raised by her mother in a three-bedroom house with 12 other people in it.
She didn’t have the luxury of private lessons or expensive camps. She was introduced to softball by playing baseball and was given the opportunity to play for Johnson. His club team, the Tampa Young Guns, didn’t travel coast-to-coast to play in expensive exposure tournaments. The team played against regional opponents and made a name for itself in Florida.
Johnson pushed Warren to become the best in his own way. Johnson Jr. won a Gold Glove as a third baseman at Florida State in 2012 and that fueled Warren.
“He would always tease me about winning a Gold Glove,” she said. “When I won, I immediately thought of him and texted his son. I told him I wanted to be him so bad and sent him a picture of the Gold Glove.”
“We would always compete, obviously my dad was a competitor,” said Johnson Jr. “I would talk smack to her, ‘Jessie, see this? See this Gold Glove?’ Then she would say something like, ‘Let’s go take ground balls, let’s go take another bucket.’”
Johnson Jr. would always chirp back with something along the lines of, “You know you’re going to miss one more than me.” But Warren would never back down from the challenge.
That consistent drive to be the best carries over to the field when she takes her position at the hot corner. She appears calm and confident in some of the most daunting situations.
But, Warren hasn’t always been that way. When she first attended camps at Florida State, her nerves would sometimes take over. Johnson was the calming force that pushed her to excel.
FSU head coach Lonni Alameda remembers the day she met Warren. It was a Monday or a Wednesday, but that doesn’t matter, she can paint the picture.
“I got a call from Johnson and he told me he thought he had a kid who could play at this level,” Alameda remembered.
She invited her to a clinic on a day whenever Johnson was coming up to Tallahassee, Fla. to watch his sons play baseball.
“She took three swings and hit three over the scoreboard,” giggled Alameda. “We were like, ‘Yeah, I think you’re right Coach Sherman, this kid can play.’"
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Warren committed to FSU and was a four-time All-ACC First-Team selection, two-time ACC Player of the Year, three-time NFCA All-American, National Champion and 2018 WCWS Most Outstanding Player.
The transition to college wasn’t easy, though. She arrived at FSU as a shortstop, but Alameda wanted her to play third base. Warren didn’t agree and it took some convincing for her to make the move.
“She did not want to play third base,” Alameda reminisced. “It was so funny. I remember Briana Hamilton telling her she would be fine and Jessie was crying, ‘I don’t want to play there.’ Now, I ask her if she remembers when she didn’t want to play third base and look at her now.”
Playing third base at FSU almost defines Warren nowadays. The coordinates of third base at JoAnne Graf Field are tattooed on her right arm and a spectacular play she made during the 2018 Women’s College World Series lives on in highlight reel after highlight reel.
As a Seminole, she finished her four-year career with 47 errors in 755 chances. That's good for a career fielding percentage of .938.
She also left her name all over the FSU record book as the program’s record holder in career slugging percentage (.820), batting average (.391), home runs (83), runs scored (229), runs batted in (273) and doubles (51).
Three days after winning the award, Warren finally got to hold her Gold Glove. Mark Kraemer, Director of Sports Marketing and Licensing at Rawlings, was on hand to present it to her.
“It was an honor to present the 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove to a player of Jessie Warren’s caliber,” said Kraemer. “Her background in baseball and knowledge of the award, makes it even more special.”
“To me, I just play softball to play softball, and when the accolades come, they come,” said Warren. “I just love being out here with my teammates and enjoying the game. This award isn’t possible without my teammates pushing me to be as driven as I am. A lot of the recognition should go to the pitchers for allowing me to make those plays. It’s a really cool recognition and a huge honor and accomplishment for me.”
Whenever their schedules line up, Warren and Johnson Jr. plan to take a photo together with their Gold Gloves.
“It’s such an awesome accolade and not just for awards purposes, but for recognition purposes, for the game, for the growth,” said Alameda. “For the little kid out of Tampa that didn’t play on a huge club team, for the young woman at Florida State that was able to make a play that put us on the national stage, for all those little things that are all the stories that we love to hear about, she is part of them.”