Geri Ann Glasco thought she was recording an interview with television analyst and international softball legend Jessica Mendoza, but the only sound bite cameras captured was the stunned teen's gasp when the two-time Olympic medalist unveiled the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year trophy.
Fittingly, Mendoza was the first to inform the Oconee County (Watkinsville, Ga.) standout that she'd joined softball royalty such as Alicia Hollowell and Cat Osterman, who have won the award previously. The surprise abruptly concluded the mock Q&A orchestrated at the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association North/South All-Star Softball Classic in Rome, Ga.
"I thought it was going to be a typical interview, and then Jessica Mendoza is the first person I see," Glasco said. "I recognized it was a bigger deal than I thought, so I got a little nervous and answered her questions as best I could. Then, she dropped the news. I had no idea I was being considered for this. It's really exciting, really surreal. It's awesome to receive such great recognition and be on a list with people I've grown up watching. It really shows hard work pays off, and I'm so grateful."
The 5-foot-6 senior right-handed pitcher led the Warriors (38-2) to the Class AAA state title this past season. Glasco posted a 19-0 record with a 0.50 ERA in the circle, while batting .564 with 62 RBI and a state single-season record 24 home runs. A four-time first-team all-state selection, she struck out 213 batters in 113 innings, firing 13 shutouts and four no-hitters. Glasco set the state career record for home runs (47) and doubles (58) in addition to finishing second in Georgia history with 207 career hits and fourth with 167 RBIs.
"I was literally giddy before Geri Ann walked in," said Mendoza, 31, a four-time first-team collegiate All-American and the 2011 National Pro Fastpitch MVP as an outfielder for the USSSA Florida Pride. "It was so fun as an ESPN staffer to set her up and then say, 'Just kidding, you're the player of the year!'
"It makes me so happy Gatorade is doing this. The bigger sports get recognized. In women's sports, no one knows who these kids are until they go on to become collegiate All-Americans. The real story is the path. I mean, I'm in Rome, Georgia, today, and it's something so special, a day she'll remember the rest of her life."
As the recipient of the 244th Gatorade National Player of the Year trophy, which has been awarded since 1985, Glasco becomes the first student-athlete from the state of Georgia to earn Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year honors. She is the fifth Georgian to win National Player of the Year recognition in any of the award program’s 12 sports and is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special ceremony prior to the ESPYS in July.
The award recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field of play. ESPNHS manages the award’s selection process.
"Geri Ann is a dominating pitcher, but her hitting is what sets her apart from other athletes," said Garland Cooper of ESPNHS softball. "She is one of the purest power hitters in the country -- a rare talent that not only can hit for power, but also for average. In the circle, Glasco wants the ball in big games and has the smarts to take command of a game. I can't wait to see what she can do at the next level."
Glasco, 18, has maintained a B-plus average in the classroom. She has volunteered as part of multiple community service initiatives in association with the Watkinsville First Baptist Church in addition to leading a bible study group for high school peers. Glasco has also donated her time locally as a youth softball instructor and on behalf of an elementary school literacy-outreach initiative.
As a senior, Glasco, who throws right and bats left, fanned 1.88 batters per inning and produced an OPS of 2.016 at the plate. Her home run total shattered the previous state single-season record of 19. Her RBI production ranks fourth in state single-season history. Glasco has signed a national letter of intent to play softball next season at the University of Georgia, where her father, Gerry Glasco, is an assistant coach.
During the 2011 postseason -- Georgia is one of five states that plays high school softball in the fall -- the younger Glasco pitched 28.2 innings, posting a 4-0 record, allowing six earned runs (1.46 ERA) and surrendering nine hits while recording 60 strikeouts and issuing just six walks. At the plate she was 17-for-31 (.548 BA, 6 2B, 5 HR) with nine runs scored and 13 RBIs to go with a .632 OBP and a 1.226 slugging percentage. In club play, Glasco led the Southern Force to a top-four national finish in four of five seasons.
All five of Georgia’s National Player of the Year winners have come in the past eight years, each enjoying extraordinary success. Three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard (2003-04), 2011 WNBA Rookie of the Year Maya Moore (2006-07), highly regarded Los Angeles Angels prospect Kaleb Cowart (2009-10) and ACC Women’s Soccer Freshman of the Year Morgan Brian (2010-11) are past national winners from Georgia.
Brian became the first girls' soccer player to win Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year recognition last July during ESPYS week.
Only 11 states have produced more Gatorade national winners than Georgia with five. California ranks No. 1 with 58 and Texas is next with 25.
Want to know who won Gatorade Softball Player of the Year in your state? Click here. Visit the ESPNHS Player of the Year blog and be the first to know who wins 2011-12 Gatorade Player of the Year hardware in two remaining sports by following the ESPNHS team that manages the award program’s selection process.