CLEARWATER — It has been eight months since Jessica Warren sank to her knees along the third-base line, looked up and clenched her fists as the third baseman finished her storied Florida State career by winning a World Series title.
Now the star is a spectator.
Last week the former Alonso High standout continuously scrolled through her phone for updates on the Seminoles’ start to the 2019 season. She also attended every game of USF’s opening tournament last weekend.
Thursday she stopped by Clearwater’s Eddie C. Moore Complex to check out the opening day of the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational, a 16-team tournament that includes FSU. She plans to be there throughout the weekend to cheer on her former teammates.
“It’s amazing how time flies by so fast,” Warren said. “And it’s hard because I miss being out there.”
That does not mean Warren’s softball career has come to an end. She is in her second season playing professionally with the USSSA Pride. She also is coaching a 12-and-under team with the Clearwater Bombers.
“I wanted to start out with a young team so I could help develop and mentor them much like what I had growing up,” Warren said.
Warren’s mentor was Sherman Johnson. He convinced her to give up baseball to concentrate on softball. On Nov. 26, 2017, Johnson died of lung cancer four years after being diagnosed. Warren dedicated her senior season at FSU to him.
Now Warren inspires others. After playing a pivotal role in the Seminoles’ first national title, Warren said she received about 100 letters and emails from fans. One came from a young player who had followed Warren’s career since she was 12 years old.
In a few weeks, Warren will be giving that player hitting lessons.
“It’s such a tremendous feeling knowing you can have an impact on the sport,” she said.
As LSU players filed out of the dugout following their 3-1 win over Oklahoma State on the tournament’s first day, they were greeted by an ESPN volunteer they affectionately called “Mo.”
Monica Triner, a former East Bay and USF standout, cleared a path for the Tigers, escorting them to a set of batting cages nearby for a postgame meeting.
Triner was recruited to work at the inaugural invitational by two-time Olympic champion Michele Smith, one of the lead softball analysts for ESPN.
“It’s such a small world in the softball community,” Triner said.
Triner, who played at USF from 1996-99, has always stayed active in the sport, serving as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech and with the Bulls. She was inducted into USF’s softball hall of fame in 2003 and eight years later became the first softball player inducted into the school’s hall of fame.
Triner also was the second overall pick in the 1999 Women’s Professional Softball League draft and led the Tampa Bay FireStix to the title as a rookie. That FireStix team was coached by Linda Derk, who guided Admiral Farragut to a state title last season before stepping down in December. Derk is working as a volunteer at this week’s invitational, too.
So is former Academy at the Lakes/USF standout Lauren Evans, who is now playing for Great Britain’s national team (she has dual citizenship). Evans, who played for the Bulls from 2015-18, was recruited to volunteer by Triner, her instructor growing up.
“It’s crazy how everything comes full circle,” said Triner, who continues to give lessons in the Riverview area.
Triner’s softball connections run deep. As members of LSU’s coaching staff walked by, each one gave Triner a pat on the shoulder. Triner and Tigers coach Beth Torina played on the same travel team growing up.
“When you’re around softball that long, you start to know everyone,” Triner said.
The Packaged Deal
Today will be the first of two softball clinics at Eddie C. Moore Complex. They were started by four former standouts — Amanda Scarborough (Texas A&M), Jen Schroeder Buchan (UCLA), Katie Schroeder Schmitt (UCLA) and Morgan Stuart (Washington) — who specialize in different skill sets and help teach mental aspects of the game.
“It’s as much motivation and life skills as anything else,” said Scarborough, an analyst for ESPN.
Today’s clinic is from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and costs $85. Saturday’s is from 10 a.m.-noon and costs $150. Register at packageddeal.com. Registrants will receive a complimentary one-day ticket to the invitational.
St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational
16-team college softball tournament; through Sunday; Eddie C. Moore Complex, 2780 Drew St., Clearwater
Friday’s schedule: Kentucky vs. Hofstra, 9:30 a.m.; Florida State vs. Ohio State, 9:30 (ESPN3); Oklahoma vs. Florida Atlantic, 10; Tennessee vs. Notre Dame, 10 (ESPNU); Texas vs. Florida Atlantic, 12:30; James Madison vs. California, 12:30; LSU vs. Oregon, 12:30 (SEC); Oklahoma vs. Florida State, 1 (ESPNU); Oklahoma State vs. Notre Dame, 3; Kentucky vs. Utah, 3; Tennessee vs. Minnesota, 3 (ESPN3); LSU vs. Texas, 4 (ESPNU); Utah vs. Oklahoma State, 5:30; Oregon vs. James Madison, 5:30 (ESPN3)
Saturday’s schedule: Oregon vs. Florida Atlantic, 10; LSU vs. Ohio State, 10; Texas vs. Kentucky, 10 (SEC); Hofstra vs. Oklahoma, 10 (ESPN3); Florida Atlantic vs. James Madison, 1; Ohio State vs. Utah, 1; Florida State vs. LSU, 1 (ESPN3); Oklahoma State vs. California, 1 (ESPN3); Notre Dame vs. Minnesota, 4; Hofstra University vs. Oklahoma State, 4; Kentucky vs. Oregon, 4 (ESPNU); Tennessee vs. James Madison, 4 (ESPN3); Utah vs. Tennessee, 7; California vs. Notre Dame, 7 (ESPN3); Minnesota vs. Florida State, 7:30 (ESPN3)
Sunday’s schedule: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame, 10 (ESPNU); Minnesota vs. California, 10 (ESPN3); James Madison vs. Kentucky, 1 (ESPN3); Utah vs. Hofstra University, 1 (ESPN3); Florida Atlantic vs. Florida State, 4 (ESPN3); Florida State vs. Tennessee, 7 (ESPN2)
Tickets: Advance daily, $20 adults, $15 children ages 5-17; day of, $25 and $20, respectively. Tournament passes, $75 adults, $50 children
More info: stpeteclearwatereliteinvite.com