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A star on the softball mound and in the classroom

Published: June 3rd, 2009

Category: Spotlights

Stacey Nelson

Stacey Nelson

Senior, Philosophy
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Softball pitcher Stacey Nelson has been a big part of her team’s phenomenal success over the past two seasons: a 133-10 record and a runner-up finish in the NCAA Women’s College World Series Championship Series this year.

But the senior’s list of academic achievements and community involvement is as long and remarkable as her record on the field.

Nelson, a philosophy major, has been a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll every year of her career. In 2008, she became the first UF softball player to receive ESPN The Magazine’s Academic All-American first-team honors, and the first to earn athletic and academic All-American first-team status. Last week, she won the academic honor again. She also just received the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year (softball).

Her range of work on behalf of others is far and wide: participating in fund-raisers such as Swing for Cancer and Climb for Cancer; filming a television commercial for Smoke Free Florida; building a house for Habitat for Humanity; and mentoring area school children.

Among her most unusual efforts was interviewing people in Indianola, Miss., about their first voting experience during the Freedom Summer of 1964 for the Samuel Proctor Oral History Project. She remains connected with the project and hopes to do more with it.

Her accomplishments resulted in her becoming the first Gator to receive the 2009 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes NCAA Division I athletes who use their platform to make a positive impact.

She’s done all of this while helping her team produce a record season of 63-5, resulting in the team’s first time in the Women’s College World Series Championship Series, which was lost to the University of Washington.

For the second year in a row, Nelson earned SEC Pitcher of the Year, All-SEC first team and SEC All-Defensive team accolades. She has 136 career wins, which is the sixth best all-time in the NCAA and second in SEC history. The right-hander holds 24 UF records.

Coach Tim Walton says Nelson is competitive and has worked incredibly hard for her successes on the field.

“She is kind and humble and everything we look for in a player,” Walton said. “Although she never wants the recognition, she deserves everything she gets.”

Nelson is quick to credit others for her success.

“I have great teammates behind me and great coaches working with me — that is key,” she said. “Second, pitching is all about adjustments. I learned quickly how to make adjustments against hitters.”

The Southern California native has been playing softball since she was 8 when one of her father’s old high school friends decided to start coaching and enlisted his help. “We were the Mighty Dolphins. No one else on the team could pitch, so that’s why I started pitching,” she said. Her father has always seen her potential and pushed her to work hard, she added.

Inspiration for her academic success has come from her classes at UF and her eventual goal of studying humanitarian law and working for the International Criminal Court. “It’s about finding something you like and pushing yourself toward that goal,” she said.

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