By Maren Angus
It was during the Major League Baseball playoffs when NFCA Executive Director Carol Bruggeman texted Jessica Mendoza asking for the outline for her keynote address that would be given at the 2017 NFCA Convention. Mendoza didn’t have one.
“I’m just going to speak from my heart,” she said to a crowd of about 1,700 at Bally’s in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.
The Stanford graduate addressed how the game shaped her life as well how the people in the room could change the game for the better.
“Softball is the best sport in the world guaranteed,” said Mendoza. “It doesn’t matter your race or where you’re from … you’re accepted.”
Emotions began to build up for the Olympian when she told the coaches who were in the room they need to change the game. Her main point she drove home was the recruiting age and how 13-year-olds shouldn’t have to commit to college when they don’t even know who they are as a person.
A four-time NFCA First Team All-American at Stanford, Mendoza acknowledged that if it weren’t for her coaches that she wouldn’t be where she is today. As a pre-med student at Stanford, Mendoza was trying to follow in the footsteps of her role model, Dr. Dot Richardson.
“I was 13 or 14 years old when I listened to Dot Richardson speak at nationals (for the first time),” said Mendoza. “That moment changed me forever.”
But it wasn’t until her first semester at Stanford, she realized her dreams of being an orthopedic surgeon might not exactly go according to plan. She was failing almost all of her classes and didn’t think she fit in with the crowd.
“Playing softball brings something out in me that is different than anything else,” she said. “I realized I was smart enough to be at Stanford and that I could do it.”
She changed her major to American Studies and told the crowd her dream of being doctor went on hold and her new dream was to run for the United States Senate on an education reform platform.
“I was ready to be a U.S. Senator,” said Mendoza about when she graduated. “I’m still thinking about it and might run for the U.S. Senate here soon.”