Jacksonville Daily Progress
Years and years of hard work and thousands of hours spent on softball fields across America have paid off handsomely for Rusk High School's Sydney Littlejohn.
Littlejohn, one of the top pitching prospects in Texas, has signed a national letter of intent to continue her academic and athletic career at the University of Alabama.
In the fall, she will join a Crimson Tide softball team that won the 2012 NCAA Division I National Championship and that is coached by Patrick Murphy.
Littlejohn, who had offers from scads of Division I schools from coast-to-coast, choose Alabama because of the family atmosphere that Murphy has built the Crimson Tide program around.
Alabama's enthrallment with Littlejohn was best outlined by Littlejohn's high school coach, Ashley Renner.
“Sydney's size (6' 1”, 180 lbs.) and her strength made her attractive to Alabama,” Renner said. “She throws a real hard ball, which means that it moves a lot and it gets up on the hitters' hands real quick, before they have a chance to figure out what type of pitch that it is.
“Sydney throws hard and she throws a lot of different pitches and that keeps (opposing) hitters on their toes. Alabama is getting a fine pitcher in Sydney.”
Littlejohn played on the Texas Glory-Naudin 16 select travel team last summer where she posted a 6-1 record (1.72 ERA) in facing some of the best travel teams in the United States.
She struck out 69 opposing batters in 53 innings of work while allowing only 22 walks and 26 hits.
Littlejohn's signing, which took place at Eagle Coliseum, drew a crowd of around 300 as former coaches, players, classmates and members of the Rusk community joined the Littlejohn family in celebrating Sydney Littlejohn's big day.
Littlejohn said that although she will taking her talents about eight hours eastward, to Tuscaloosa, Ala., that she will be forever remember her days in Rusk.
“It has been an honor and privilege to represent my school and (to) be a Rusk Lady Eagle,” Littlejohn said. “No matter where I may travel in life, my experiences on the Rusk softball fields are some of my most special memories.
“My roots will always be on the softball fields of Rusk.”
Renner said that the impact of a Lady Eagle signing with such a prestigious school as Alabama could have an affect on others in the Rusk softball community as well.
“It's a very big deal when someone has an opportunity to sign with the best team in the country,” Renner said. “I think that this (Littlejohn's signing) can show the younger girls that with a lot of hard work, long hours and dedication that regardless of where you live, anything is possible.
“I think it will be neat for the girls that she played with and the Rusk community to be able to see Sydney playing for Alabama on television in the future,” she said. “That will be exciting for the girls and the whole town can take pride in that.”
Many of Littlejohn's former coaches were on hand for the signing, including Ty McCarty (Bad Attitude), Anthony Springer (Sneaky Cleats and The Brook Hill School head softball coach), Kenny Slayton (Texas Showtime), Tracy Beard (Texas Glory-Gold) and personal pitching instructor Bob Phelps, who traveled in from Moline, Ill. for the momentous occasion.
As a special thank you, each coach was presented with an Alabama executive desk pen that Littlejohn used to signed her paperwork with.
Littlejohn is the daughter of Paul and Lynn Littlejohn, and the granddaughter of Mary Ann and Buddy Lange and Glenda Littlejohn, all of Rusk.