Days after her mother’s death, when everything felt unreal and very frustrating, Jordyn Lawhon wore the necklace for the first time.
It’s a simple heart-shaped sign, bright silver against his gray Villa Park uniform. It was my mother’s piece of jewelry. Lawhon always asked to wear it, and his mother told him no because there was a tiny, tiny knot in the chain. Don’t mix it up.
In a two-week whirlwind in January 2022, the woman he kept on the ground went from being perfectly well to sick with COVID-19, to being taken away by ambulance. It was the last time the family saw him. A couple of days later, Lawhon’s father used a pair of tweezers to untangle the knot.
Lawhon put it on, and never took it off. Not until the spring did umpires find the shortstop trying to get under his jersey and order him to take it off. Such were the rules for high school athletics.
“I was so upset about it,” Lawhon recalled.
This spring, however, a vote by the National Federation of State High School Assns. It became legal for high school softball players nationwide to wear jewelry. The influence is everywhere: The phrase “look good, play good” is embedded in softball culture, multiple coaches said, and jewelry is an opportunity for high school players to feel comfortable in their individuality.
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Freedom has a deeper and more poignant effect for many: the opportunity to carry a memorial of a loved one in diamond. A comfort in times of anxiety.
“That’s why,” Lawhon said of his mother’s necklace, “it will always be very close to my heart.”
Ritual is intrinsic to baseball and softball, baked into every step to the batting box, every warmup between innings. And the jewelry, Cerritos Gahr’s Amarie Allen said, is a simple extension of that ritual that gives each athlete a unique sense of stability.
“The girls are now able to be themselves,” Orange El Modena coach Robert Calderon said.
When Allen turned 15 in his sophomore year, his mother gave him a gold necklace with an “R” charm on it. It was a memorial to honor his father Rady, who died of a heart attack a couple of years earlier. It was Allen’s best friend and safe place; When anxiety gripped him on and off the pitch, it helped him catch his breath.
Over the summer, Allen underwent breast reduction surgery, keeping him sidelined for two months. Two days after his return in the fall, he was tabbed for a concussion, and panicked. Step by step in the stalls. Trembling
He reached under the jersey, pulling the collar out from under a turtleneck and clasping it with both hands. Breathing. Just like his father taught him.
“It helps my attitude a lot,” Allen said of wearing his necklace. “Before, I would be so sad because… I would like to go home, go to my room and go to sleep.
“But now,” he continued, “I feel I have more reason to be here.”
The same goal burns within teammate Rio Mendez, a junior paradomoz wearing a gold necklace given to him by his grandmother, Norma. A month ago, Mendez said, doctors diagnosed Norma with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, giving her months to live.
Forty years ago, Mendez said, her grandmother’s brother gave her the same necklace, handmade with her name engraved in the shape of her hometown of Puerto Rico. Now, if not in the neck, Mendez feels that something is missing.
“Make people remember me,” Mendez said of the Utah softball standout. “People look at me. It really gives me that fire.”
Softball player Rio Mendez Cerritos Gahr wears a necklace in the shape of Puerto Rico, a gift from her grandmother.
(Luca Evans/Los Angeles Times)
Not everyone is in favor of the rule change. Grand Terrace coach Robert Flores does not allow his players to wear jewelry, citing the risk of injury from earrings or lip piercings if a ball takes a bad bounce.
But for groups like Gahr who have embraced freedom, it has made a significant difference.
“It feels different,” Allen said, “walking onto the field knowing you have a piece of somebody with you.”
Hilarious pitch performances
In two days, two of the best pitching performances of the season were delivered.
On Friday night, Orange Lutheran’s Brianne Weiss struck out 20 batters in Chula Vista’s 3-0 win over Mater Dei.
The next day, Burbank freshman Maddison Kellogg went 22 over 12 2/3 innings in a 1-0 loss to Crescenta Valley.