SoftballSports

Senior outfielder Janie Takeda’s had a larger than life impact on Oregon softball



Oregon outfielder Janie Takeda looks over the demolition at Howe Field.

Her brown hair is tied low in a tight pony tail as a couple loose strands fall to the left side of her face. There’s not even a hint of a smile from the usually beaming senior. She’s wearing a black Ducks softball uniform with lightning neon yellow trim – a pattern that stretches down to her Nike cleats. Her gray DeMarini bat stands at her side. The words “Let’s do this” are printed below her.

The first time George Takeda saw the three-story sized sign of his daughter attached to the side of Mac Court, he couldn’t take his eyes off it. “To see your kid up there,” he said, pausing as he tried to find the right words, “it’s like woah.”

The sign, George said, is larger than life – it’s a fitting representation of the impact Janie’s had on the Oregon softball team in her four years with the program. She’s a three-time All-American, the school’s career leader in hits, doubles, stolen bases and runs, and she’s helped lead Oregon to three-straight Pac-12 Championships.

Before Janie leaves Oregon and heads to play on the USA National team this summer, she has one thing left she wants to accomplish in Oklahoma City at the Women’s College World Series.

“Every single one of us on this team wants to win a national championship,” she said. “That’s the goal.”

***

Every morning in the Takeda’s Placentia, California, home, when the clock struck eight, Janie would be in front of the television. As a kid, Janie loved the weather. She’d find out the forecast for the day from the local news – typically a day upwards of 80 degrees and sunny in Southern California – go to her Dad’s closet, and pick out his outfit for his day at work as an eye doctor.

Janie, a self-proclaimed diva when she was younger, would perfectly match a shirt, tie and pants combination for her Dad.

“I never picked a bad combination,” Janie said, “and my Dad wore it every time.”

The same girl that would sprint to the television each morning when her father called her down stairs eventually translated her speed to the softball diamond. Being the youngest of three sisters in a softball family, it was inevitable she’d play the sport. Janie’s oldest sister, Allison, was part of a state championship winning team in high school. Michelle, the middle of the three sisters, eventually played for Maryland and Southern Mississippi University.

George, who played semi-professional baseball, became the girls’ hitting coach. Michelle and Janie would hit six days a week in their garage or in the batting cages at a local park. Their days consisted of school, homework, dinner and then batting practice. They’d go through buckets and buckets of balls in each session.

After batting practice, George would take the sisters to get frozen yogurt. Michelle would get vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. Janie would get yogurt and pile on as many toppings as she could, amassing a size of about three times Michelle’s.

“She always wanted to be different from me,” Michelle said.

The two were very different hitters, as well. Michelle had power – her freshman year at Maryland she led the team with seven home runs. Janie didn’t have power, but she used her speed to her advantage. She started out as a pure slap hitter, hoping to make contact so she could show off her speed.

“Through practice and her work ethic she became a truly natural hitter,” George said.

Softball was always on their minds. Michelle and Janie shared a room growing up, sleeping on bunk beds together. At night, they’d stay up late, way later than their parents knew, and talk. They talked about their future in the sport.

Janie loved softball but never saw it as something she’d be doing for the rest of her life. Michelle, on the other hand, had dreams of being a college All-American. Unfortunately for Michelle, a back injury followed her throughout her collegiate career and she never accomplished that dream.

But that doesn’t bother Michelle. Instead, she gets to watch her sister, her “Bubbatwinster,” a nickname the two call each other that is a combination of twin sisters with the name Bubba, succeed.

“If it had to be one of us,” Michelle said, “I’m so thankful it’s her.”

***

Janie’s flight out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County was scheduled to take off at 3:15 p.m. She was nervous. The e-mail that would tell her either she made the USA National team or not was scheduled to be sent at 3:30 p.m.

“I thought I’d have to sit on the flight and wonder if I made the team for the entire flight,” Janie said. “It was nerve-wracking.”

Her flight was slightly delayed. When 3:30 came around, the plane was on the runway, about to take off. The notice to “turn off all electronic devices” had already been issued by the flight attendants. She raced into her e-mail, loaded the list and saw the good news.

Before the tryouts in Irvine, California took place, Janie was undecided on whether she’d join the professional league right away, or take the summer and play for her country, depending on if she made the team and was drafted into the National Professional Fastpitch league. She accomplished both: She was selected with the 26th overall pick in this year’s draft by the Dallas Charge.

After she found out she made the USA team, Janie decided she was all-in this summer to represent the United States in the World Cup of Softball.

“I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wear those three letters across my chest and represent my country in that way,” Janie said.

***

Janie describes her offensive attack simply: just put the ball in play, and watch her run as fast as she can.

In her final at bat at Howe Field – which is being demolished to make way for Jane Sanders Stadium next year – Janie hit a high chopper through the infield and into left field. The ball rolled under the glove of North Carolina State left fielder Tyler Ross, and bounced off the wall. Janie, like a blur, sprinted to third base safely. She flashed a smile and put her hands together in an “O” towards the crowd. She scored on the next at bat.

Watching the game from her home in Louisiana, Michelle was amazed at the speed of Janie on that play.

“But it’s not just that she’s fast,” Michelle said. “She glides. It looked like she went from first to third in two steps before stepping on a dime at third.

“I don’t think there was a better way for her to go out.”

Friday morning, Janie called Michelle to talk. Janie was upset about her recent struggles at the plate. Since the super regionals against North Carolina State – and in Oregon’s 7-1 loss to UCLA to open the Women’s College World Series – Janie is 1-for-12.

“For as good as she is, she’s still hard on herself,” Michelle said. “It’s crazy.”

Michelle told Janie to Google her name. “See how good you really are,” Michelle said to her younger sister.

Michelle was in town for Janie’s senior day on May 3, against the University of California-Berkeley. One of the first things she saw walking in to Howe Field was the sign of Janie hanging on the side of Mac Court.

She couldn’t believe it.

“That’s unreal,” she said. “No way that’s real.”

When Janie’s final season at Oregon comes to a close and the university decides to take the sign of Janie down, Michelle said she wants to have it. She wants to take it back to her home in Addis, Louisiana to tarp over her house when a hurricane hits.

“When helicopters fly over, everyone will be able to see Janie on the news,” Michelle said, with a laugh.

Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @JoeJHoyt


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Joseph Hoyt

Joseph Hoyt

Joseph is in his third year as a sports reporter at the Emerald. If you have any questions for the reporter, email Joseph at [email protected]