18 Under 18: Jordan Sheridan

Pitcher raises money with every strikeout to benefit a soup kitchen in her city

Updated: February 29, 2012, 12:57 AM ET
By Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie | ESPNHS GIRL Magazine

ESPNHS honors 18 female teen athletes who are doing remarkable things on the field, in the classroom and in their communities. Click here to read about each of them.

Jordan Sheridan, a junior at Christian Brothers Academy (Syracuse, N.Y.), has pitched 52 out of 52 games for the school's varsity softball team since she first took the mound as an eighth grader. (She was ready for varsity in seventh grade, but school rules forced her to wait, explained coach Greg Jewett.) At just 5-foot-5 she falls short of the typical pitcher's build, but Sheridan can propel the ball over the plate at a speedy 59 mph. Thanks to a mean riseball and changeup, she struck out 210 batters her freshman year, and she holds the school record for Ks, wins, shutouts and innings pitched.

Last year Jordan decided she could do more with her strikeouts than win games and set records: She wanted to fight hunger in Central New York, where nearly 30% of residents live in poverty. After volunteering at the Samaritan Center in downtown Syracuse, an interfaith soup kitchen, Jordan cooked up a plan to prove that "every little bit counts."

For the 2011 season, she printed up flyers advertising a campaign to "Strike Out Hunger." The gist: friends and family would pledge a donation per batter struck out by Jordan. The amounts were modest -- ranging from five cents from Jordan's 5-year-old sister up to a dollar. But they added up fast. Sheridan had 139 strikeouts on the season (after the state adopted a National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) rule that moved the pitching mound from 40 to 43 feet, the game became considerably less pitcher-dominant), the campaign racked up a grand total of $3,723.75 for the Samaritan Center.

But she's not done yet. This year the campaign is slated to double in size, as Christian Brothers Academy's baseball team will join Sheridan's efforts. "A lot more people my age and younger are volunteering," Sheridan said. "Probably because we see [hunger] a lot too."

While Lori Lichorobiec, development director for the Samaritan Center, agrees there are a lot of teens among the 800-plus volunteers who work at the center monthly, Sheridan stands out. "We were amazed at how much she was able to raise," she said. Jewett agreed: While he's seen kids raise money before, it's never been this big or this self-directed. "I didn't make her do this," he said. "She came to me with the idea."

But beyond her donation -- which dished up about 3,256 hot meals -- Sheridan is most proud of the awareness she was able to create. "When I went back to the Samaritan Center I saw the photographer who interviewed me for a story there volunteering with his family," she said.