March 3, 2011
When you compare Frani Echavarria's stat lines between her freshman and sophomore seasons, you would think they were produced by two different people. She went from hitting a final .193 with five RBI and 17 runs as a freshman to ending 2010 as the squad's third best hitter at .339.
The onus to come back a better player for her second season lay completely on Echavarria. She took the summer in between her freshman and sophomore years to make some major self improvements.
"I went home and really reevaluated where I was at the end of my freshmen year," she said. "I set goals of where I wanted to be. During the offseason at home, I worked out every day and just went back to the basics."
Returning to the fundamentals of the game proved incredibly fruitful for Echavarria. Upon her return to Berkeley, she ended up having the second-most hits (62) and third-most doubles (11). She received just desserts as a Pac-10 honorable mention at the close of the 2010 campaign.
When you examine Echavarria's transformation, it is no surprise that hard work and determination are an extremely integral part of her personal belief system.
"To work hard and never settle for anything, strive for greatness," Echavarria answered when asked what advice she would give to young aspiring athletes.
In addition to her improved stat line and entrusted starting position, Echavarria earned a reward that she notes as her most memorable moment of her time with the Bears.
"My favorite moment playing at Cal was definitely hitting my first home run my sophomore year," Echavarria said. "My family was there to see it."
One Day at a Time
Part of what helps Echavarria have ongoing success is taking the season game-by-game. Cal head coach Diane Ninemire is such a huge proponent of this approach that she washes off her shoes in between games to not bring dirt or baggage from previous games into the next one. Breaking down the games into achievable marks, along with an infectious playlist on the iPod, preps Echavarria for games.
"Before each game, I like to listen to music because music always gets me pumped up," Echavarria noted of her pre-game rituals. "To prepare, I like to make small goals that I want to achieve that day."
Keeping her focus is incredibly important when playing with the Bears, who play a 60-game schedule and go up against the best in the country week in and week out. With Echavarria leading the brigade, the 2010 Bears chalked up yet another winning year and a successful run into the postseason to which the Bears are accustomed - advancing to Super Regional play after demolishing the Columbus Regional. In addition to posting their 37th consecutive winning record in 2010, the Bears finished 10-11 in the Pac-10 Conference to tie for fourth.
With seven of the eight Pac-10 Conference teams earning bids to the postseason, it is no wonder that many hail the Pac-10 as the preeminent conference for collegiate softball. The Bears were one of those seven teams to advance to the NCAA Tournament, marking their 25th consecutive trip, which is the second-longest streak in the nation. Playing in as many as five games a weekend in nonconference tournaments and then facing off against the Pac-10 slate demands the best from the Bears week in and week out.
"It's hard to play anywhere when we're on the road and traveling," Echavarria noted of the season-opening stretch of tournament games. "Arizona is always a hard trip because their fans are always loud and intense. But that makes it that much more exciting to play."
Work Hard, Play Hard
While it's all work for Cal on the field, there is never a dull moment with the Bears whether it's joking at a team meal or playing pranks on each other during the down time. At the Gainesville Super Regional during Frani's freshman year, the Bears did line dances in the dugout while a rain storm stalled play.
"I would say the best part of our team is everyone's sense of humor," Echavarria said of her teammates. "We always have a good time no matter where or what's going on."
In addition to playing softball, academics are very important to Echavarria. Frani is the first of the Echavarrias to go to college. The diligence Frani applies to her academics and athletics can be attributed to her parents.
"The most important lesson my parents taught me is that nothing is ever given to you in this world," Frani said. "You have to earn what you receive."
Frani takes advice that very seriously. After finishing her bachelor's degree, she has set her sights on furthering her education.
"I want to go to law school so I can become a public defender," Echavarria said. "I've always wanted to be a lawyer, but I like to help people so I want to be a defense attorney to defend the innocent."
In addition to shaping Frani into one of the squad's hardest workers, her family also played a role in her position on the field.
"I started playing center field because my older brother, Ronnie Jr., played center and I wanted to be just like my big brother when I was younger," Echavarria recalled. "The best part about playing center field at Cal is being able to play between Elia and Jamia Reid.
Center field is where you can find Echavarria stationed as the Bears continue their quest to make it to the 2011 Women's College World Series. To find out when you can see Frani in the outfield at Levine-Fricke Field in Berkeley's picturesque Strawberry Canyon, please click here to see the Cal schedule.
Just For Fun
CalBears.com: What is your biggest pet-peeve?
FE: My biggest pet-peeve is rude people.
CalBears.com: If you could snap your fingers and be anywhere, where would it be?
FE: I could say an extravagant vacation spot, but honestly I would have to say my house. After all there's no place like home.
CalBears.com: What was your best Halloween costume?
FE: When I was in first grade, I was Belle from "Beauty and the Beast."
CalBears.com: Your bio mentions you love your mom's cooking. What is your favorite dish that she makes?
FE: I would have to say my mom's chicken tacos or carne asada.