Pacific softball pitcher recognized with CalHOPE Courage Award
Amiyah Aponte ’24, a junior pitcher on the University of the Pacific softball team, was recently selected for the CalHOPE Courage Award, which honors student-athletes at California colleges and universities who have overcome stress, anxiety and mental trauma associated with personal hardships and adversity.
“I’m so grateful that I was recognized and able to share my story,” Aponte said. “With this award, one thing I’m trying to do is be proud of myself and stop and smell the roses a bit more to celebrate my victories.”
With her father in and out of prison, Aponte was raised by a single mother and had to live with various family members and friends for the first 12 years of her life. Money and food were sometimes scarce, and her mother worked two jobs to support their family.
Her mother encouraged Aponte to stay busy with extracurricular activities. Discovering softball gave her a distraction from the day-to-day challenges.
“I could make friends, be involved in the community and focus on having fun on the field. When I was playing, I didn’t have to worry about the struggles we were going through at home,” she said.
She also found support from her grandfather who became “the biggest influence” in her softball career. With her mother’s hectic work schedule, he drove Aponte to tournaments, practices and lessons.
“I would never have made it to the Division I level if it wasn’t for him. His positive attitude and encouragement always made me want to continue playing, and I think of him every time I pitch,” she said.
Her love of the game has turned into an impressive collegiate career. Aponte has a team-best 2.37 earned-run average, starting five games for the Tigers. Her best outing thus far was a complete game win over Cal State Northridge, holding the Matadors to two hits in a 4-0 shutout victory.
“One of the traits of a great softball pitcher is being resilient in the face of adversity,” said Head Coach Brian Kolze. “Unlike other positions, your team relies on you to deliver the next pitch, even during the worst moments in the pitcher’s circle. For Aponte, it was almost as if she was born to be a pitcher.”
Though Aponte still feels the effects of her difficult childhood, she has taken steps to protect her mental health.
“I feel strong and empowered to overcome everything I have,” Aponte said. “My upbringing made me appreciate everything I have now, and it’s made me a kind, caring and compassionate person to be around.”
The softball team’s next home game is Thursday, April 27 at 4 p.m. against Oregon. The Tigers wrap up the home season with a three-game series against Saint Mary’s on April 29–30 before finishing the regular season on the road at Brigham Young University the following week.