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Why Zoey Jones Chose To Play For Softball Legend Joan Joyce

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(Photo by Zach Del Bello/Florida Atlantic Athletics)

When softball legend Joan Joyce passed away in March, the sports world collectively mourned the death of an icon.

Joyce, who is considered one of softball's best pitchers ever, played for the Raybestos Brakettes for most of her playing career and won 753 games, including 150 no-hitters and 50 perfect games. To boot, she struck out MLB legends Ted Williams and Hank Aaron during her career, which ran from the 1950s to 1970s.

Joyce was also most recently the head coach of the Florida Atlantic University softball team, becoming just the 27th NCAA Division I coach to reach 1,000 wins earlier this year before her death.

Softball America caught up with one of Joyce's former players, Zoey Jones, to find out what it was like to play for the softball legend. Jones, who is now a junior infielder for the Owls, was heavily influenced by Joyce during the time she spent with her at FAU.

Softball America: How were you first introduced to Joan Joyce?

Zoey Jones: My hitting coach was mutual friends with Joan, so he would always tell me about her because he knew I wanted to go to school somewhere in Florida. Other than what he would tell me about her, I didn’t know much about her or FAU at first.

SA: When did you know you wanted to play for her?

ZJ: I first met her at a camp in 2016, and within those few days after meeting her, getting to know her as a person and a coach, I verbally committed to FAU. If that doesn’t say a lot in a little bit of words, I don’t know what does. She had a way of teaching that really drew me to her and the program.

SA: What do you think made Joan Joyce special as a coach?

ZJ: She told me straight up what I needed to work on in order to get better, but she also told me how much she loved me as a player and how much she appreciated my family and me. I knew she would be a hard coach, but I knew I was up for the challenge, and I would be lucky to be coached by her.

She had an energy about her that just wanted to compete. She always wanted us to work our hardest, try our best and have fun. She always pushed us because she knew our potential and she just wanted us to play like we know how to play. Those characteristics of her as a coach was an automatic 'yes' in my brain that I needed her to be my coach.

SA: What do you think Joan Joyce's legacy is?

ZJ: She left an impact on us that we will carry with us for the rest of our careers here at FAU and for the rest of our lives. If you were lucky enough to be influenced by her, you know how intelligent she was about the game. We learned so much about the game from her experience and all her life stories about golf, softball and so many more experiences. She did everything for us. We were her family, her kids. And we never took any story or instruction lightly, because we knew everything she was sharing with us meant something to her, so we knew it was important for us to take in as much as we could.

SA: How often do you think about Joan Joyce and the impact she had on you?

ZJ: Every single time I step out onto our field, I think of her. I imagine her chair where it was in the dugout every single home game. I see her banner in the outfield and it reminds me to work hard, try my best and compete. She will always be one of my 'whys.' She is a reason I am playing at the Division I level. She saw the potential in me, and I now am so blessed to have played for her, learned from her and share what I’ve learned from her with others.


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