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Genovese will miss Missouri years

Corrin Genovese says the thing she’ll miss most about Missouri is that sense of place and belonging, the joy that comes with arriving at the softball field in springtime and knowing her favorite position is waiting for her.

“I might have been tired at times,” Genovese said Monday. “I might have had long days when it was 100 degrees. But I’ll miss walking up to that stadium and going out to shortstop. I feel that’s my spot. When I see another girl out there next year, it’s going to hit me weird.”

Genovese, a graduate of Williamsville North, spent four great years at Mizzou, where she was a star infielder and vocal leader from almost the moment she set foot in Columbia and helped the Tigers to 170 victories over her four-year career.

She was the Big 12 defensive player of the year as a freshman in 2012, a rare honor. In 2014, after Missouri changed conferences, Genovese was first-team shortstop in the Southeastern Conference, the top softball league in the nation. She helped the Tigers get to four straight NCAA tournaments.

Missouri coach Ehren Earlywine put Genovese at shortstop early in her freshman season because she was his best defensive player and vocal leader. She’s as competitive a person as you’ll find, which is why it was so hard to accept the fact that Mizzou didn’t reach the College World Series in her four years.

A month ago, Mizzou lost to UCLA in the super regional — softball’s equivalent of basketball’s Sweet 16 — for the third time in four seasons.

“It was really hard,” Genovese said, “because that’s the standard of excellence in college softball. It was really bitter. Everyone wants to be in the College World Series. If you look at the big picture, the Sweet 16 out of 300 NCAA teams is a big deal. But to Mizzou softball, that’s a down year.”

Genovese slipped a bit as a senior. After batting over .400 in 2013-14, she hit .312 as a senior. She had wrist surgery before the season and suffered through bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia during the first six weeks of the season.

“If you saw me, I couldn’t sleep because I would cough so hard,” she said. “I was sleep-deprived for about two and a half weeks. Coach ‘E’ would be, ‘Let’s get you through this game’. My parents were scared. I was losing weight like crazy. I had huge bags under my eyes. I don’t remember that part of the season, I truly don’t.”

But she walked out to her spot and started every game. When you’re a senior, every game seems more precious. A college career seems to go by in the blink of an eye. The sense of finality is especially jarring for top female athletes, most of whom have no professional options after graduation.

Genovese isn’t lacking for confidence or opinions. It’s not lost on her that a male baseball player would likely have been picked in the MLB draft and paid a big bonus if he had enjoyed year like she had as a junior.

“Oh, yeah, I’d be making millions,” she said with a laugh. “That’s a frustrating aspect of women’s softball. The professional league (the five-team National Pro Fastpitch league) isn’t something I was interested in doing.

“You travel and travel and don’t get any income. After four years of really stressful softball in college, you want to be rewarded like guys do. You don’t want to be playing and still worrying financially. I’m at a different point in my life. I’ve done what I love for the last 21 years of my life.”

Genovese is taking one summer class to complete her major in communications at Missouri. She wants to be a sportscaster. She’s contemplating some entry-level positions, including the SEC Network and Austin Flow sports, a Texas-based sports media and events company.

It’s hard to imagine a person with her smarts, personality, athletic background and good looks not succeeding in a field that is increasingly looking to women.

“I’d like to do anything that has to do with sports,” she said. “That’s what I love. You have to follow your passion. I think that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Guys respect you if you know the game. In high school, when girls would ask the guys to watch the Super Bowl, the guys would not want to.

“But I would have Super Bowl parties every year. The Gronkowskis would come to my house because they knew I truly wanted to sit down and watch the game. I wasn’t just trying to make conversation with guys.”

Genovese, who is 5-foot-7, would have competed with the Gronkowskis if she had her way. She wanted to go out for football as a freshman at Williamsville North, but her parents wouldn’t let her. So she played girls power puff instead and was dominant. She still thinks she could play quarterback for the Bills.

“It’s just ingrained in me to compete, no matter what I’m doing,” she said. “I think that’s part of who I am as a person. That’s why I’ll be good in the business world, too. I’ll achieve because that’s what I expect of myself. I think being an athlete has set me to get where I want to go.”

How admired is Genovese as a competitor? Just 24 hours after her Missouri career ended, she got a call from her high school basketball coach, Clare Crowley. UB women’s coach Felisha Legette-Jack asked for Corrin’s high school hoops films.

Legette-Jack knew that Genovese had been a basketball star at Will North, where she was the ECIC large school player of the year as a senior in 2011. UB lost almost all of its upperclassmen from last year’s team. Under NCAA rules, Genovese has one year of eligibility in a sport other than softball, so she could play a season at UB.

NCAA regulations prohibited UB commenting on a recruit — even a four-year graduate in another sport. But it couldn’t hurt the Bulls to have a respected local woman who competed at a very high level, albeit in another sport, to add maturity and leadership to the team.

As of Monday, UB had a full 15-player roster after signing six recruits. So Genovese would have to walk on. She said she would consider it if she could land an internship of some kind. Her mother, Karen, said she’d buy her a puppy if she went through with it.

“She loves to see me playing sports,” said Genovese, whose parents traveled to most of her college games this past season. “I don’t ever want to give up being a competitor. If I could take that to UB in a leadership role, younger kids could look up to me.”

She hasn’t played basketball competitively since high school. In her workout with UB, Genovese got light-headed very quickly. This wasn’t softball. But don’t count her out. She was a late recruit at Mizzou, an afterthought, and became one of the best players in their history.

Wherever she goes from here, whether it’s broadcasting sports or playing them, you have to think Genovese will go far. When a young woman has that much charisma and drive, there is always a position waiting.

email: jsullivan@buffnews.com