Daily Egyptian

Jessica Jansen, Saluki softball’s number one fan

Image+courtesy+of+Tony+McDaniel+%2F+Saluki+Athletics
Image courtesy of Tony McDaniel / Saluki Athletics

Image courtesy of Tony McDaniel / Saluki Athletics

Image courtesy of Tony McDaniel / Saluki Athletics

By Dillon Gilliland, Sports Reporter

Jessica Jansen, sister of freshman infielder Jenny Jansen, has proven to be an inspiration for her sister and for the rest of the softball team.

The 21-year-old Jessica Jansen was born with Down Syndrome.

“She is a big light in our family,” Jenny Jansen said. “She keeps everybody on their toes.”

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Jessica Jansen involved herself with Jenny Jansen’s softball career by becoming the team’s motivational speaker before games.

“I just try to pump them up,” Jessica Jansen said. “I’ll also bring them brownies, cookies and whatever else they might want.”

The tradition originated with pep talks for Jenny Jansen’s high school softball team, the Warrenton High School Warriors.

“She wanted to get involved somehow,” Jenny Jansen said. “The best way for her to do that was for to start giving pep talks before our games.”

Jessica’s mother Laurie Jansen said that in her three years of cheering on her younger sister, the tradition had brought the sisters closer together.

Jenny Jansen said that although she feels that she has always been close with sister, she is just grateful that Jessica can stay involved with her softball team.

“We have always been pretty close,” Jenny Jansen said. “I just think it is cool that she gets to be a part of something that I am a part of. She does not get to play softball, so it does bring us closer together in that aspect. She really enjoys it and so do I.”

The tradition carried over to collegiate softball after a short conversation between Jessica Jansen and head coach Kerri Blaylock over the summer.

“She came up to me and asked me if she could give a pre-game talk and I said yes,” Blaylock said. “She said ‘how do you know’ and I said because I am the boss’ then she made me pinky swear.”

Blaylock went on to say that Jessica Jansen was very wise and was a good spirit for the team.

Jenny Jansen noted that Jessica was an inspiration to her and the team.

“She really gets us motivated,” Jenny Jansen said. “When we are tired and sore or anything else, she comes us and makes you really forget about all that stuff.

Blaylock agreed with her infielder.

“You see her and how happy she is and how much she enjoys life,” Blaylock said. “It makes us full. She has really been great for the team.”

Jessica Jansen comes to all of her younger sister’s home games, where she sits and reads her book and waits until Jenny steps up to the plate to cheer her on.

“I love to read the Harry Potter Books,” Jessica Jansen said. “I’ve read all of them but the last one and I am working on it now.”

Outside of just coming to the games to give a pep talk, Jessica said that the teams also takes her along to eat after the game at fast food places and even bakeries.

Jenny’s sister is not just a fan of sports, she also plays sports as she competes in the Special Olympics.

Jessica began competing in the Special Olympics around the age of seven and takes part in a variety of sports including track, bowling, basketball, volleyball along with other competitions.

Since competing in the Special Olympics Jessica has earned some notable awards including Athlete of the Year in the State of Missouri.

“She competes in just about everything,” Laurie Jansen said. “She has been an absolute blessing, and she has achieved far more than we had ever imagined.”

Jessica Jansen said she will likely return to Carbondale on May 5, to help cheer on her sister when they take on the University of Northern Iowa Panthers in their final home series of the regular season.

“She loves the game of softball,” Jenny Jansen said. “She loves to come out here and pump us up. It’s not just big part of the team, I think it is a big part of her life as well.”

Sports reporter Dillon Gilliland can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @DillonGilliland.

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