For the first time in her life, Benton alum JoAnna Curtis will not be going to softball practice.
Instead, she has given up the sport and has decided to focus her attention on some extracurricular activities, mainly being more involved with a local ministry.
“There is so much to do here,” Curtis said. “Last year I got involved with what is called the Backyard Bible Club and we would go and work with kids in the community and share God’s word with them.”
Curtis said there were a lot of different things that she wanted to do but couldn’t because they usually conflicted with softball practice.
Before she graduated Benton High School, Curtis had made the decision to attend Ouachita Baptist University and had no intention of playing softball. But head coach Mike McGhee needed a short stop and, after contemplating the decision, she decided she would give it a year.
“She wants to be involved and make a difference,” McGhee said. “But I told her I would leave the door open. Anytime she wanted to come back and play, she is more than welcome.”
Curtis said softball has always been her passion.
“God has blessed me with so much,” Curtis said. “I just want to give back.”
At OBU, Curtis is involved with the Campus Ministry where one of their activities is a “Big Sister, Big Brother” campaign where a student will “adopt” a younger kid and have a chance to mentor them, play with them and even have the “adoptive kid” join them for supper or lunch on campus.
During the third week of the season, at a game in Magnolia, Curtis dislocated her middle finger on her glove hand when she dove behind second base. When they reset it, it caused a fracture. She had to have an operation on it, which pretty much ended her career.
“Honestly I just wanted to do more,” Curtis said about her decision. “I was sitting out and not playing and I was OK. [The injury] was a little factor but not the major one.”
In 11 games, Curtis had a batting average of .250 with just four at-bats and one double. Curtis, who played softball and basketball for Benton, currently attends Springcreek Baptist Church.
“Honestly, it was just kind of a God thing,” Curtis said. “It is scary not playing but He just comforted me. I just talked to my coaches about it and they were supportive.”
Curtis said that she is still apart of OBU softball.
“I am still going to be their No. 1 fan and supporting them all I can,” Curtis said.
Curtis was a part of the 2010 6A-South Conference championship team and state-runner up at Benton. Head coach Eric Ryan said her decision doesn’t really surprise him.
“She has always been a good leader and presence on the field,” Ryan said. “She has been one to really work with us with anything we decide to do and stuff.
“As far as ministry as the side I’ve never seen anything. But with her leadership skills I could see that. She has a positive attitude and a good Christian attitude with anything she approached.
“That is something to be proud of there.”
Curtis said the chances of her going back to softball are slim.
“I mean I can’t rule it out,” Curtis said. “I’ve done sports my whole life. I struggled with the decision to play or not, but I haven’t missed it so far.
“I can’t say I won’t miss it. I just don’t think there is a chance I will go back.”
OBU finished the season with a 21-25 overall record and a 16-13 record in the Gulf South Conference.
“She is a great kid with great morals and character,” McGhee said. “After she was injured, she started becoming a leader from the bench. She was vocal and she was going to be a good leader.
“That’s why I hated to see her leave.”