Whitney Jones is finally (finally) at the point where she can play Division I softball.

Getting back to where she was is a little different story. That process has been going on for about a year and a half.

In her senior year at Skowhegan Area High School, Jones injured her foot in a preseason basketball game. She had already committed to play softball at Seton Hall, and told coach Ray Vander May she’d be back in six weeks. That was in November of 2010.

What Jones didn’t know is that she had, by a freakish coincidence, a Jones fracture — a fracture of the fifth metatarsal of the foot, so named because it was first described by Sir Robert Jones in 1902, after he suffered the injury.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to recover from it,” said Whitney Jones, who spent part of her recovery time in a wheelchair. “I had it in my mind that I was going to play in college no matter what. I just didn’t know when it would be.”

“I can only imagine the mental strain she had to be going through,” Vander May said. “Her muscles atrophied. She went down in weight. She lost all her muscle structure, all her strength — just everything possible.”

Jones missed her senior seasons in both basketball and softball. Even though she played shortstop in high school, Seton Hall needed outfielders, so she had been penciled in as the Pirates’ starting center fielder before her injury.

After all that, Jones did end up starting in center field in Seton Hall’s first game of the season — a 7-6 win over St. John’s. She is hitting .150 this spring as she gradually gets her skills back.

“I don’t feel like I’ve come back to where I was before,” she said. “I’ve noticed little improvements. I’m getting used to practices. They don’t come as hard. I feel like this summer, maybe things will start to come back.”

Vander May says that timeline is reasonable. He’s optimistic Jones will fully recover, pointing out that she’s nearly as fast as she was before the injury.

“All her fielding skills have come back,” Vander May said. “She’s back to the fielder that she once was — maybe even better. She’s got that good, strong arm again.”

Of course, those fielding skills are on display during games in the outfield. Jones said she had “like no experience in the outfield whatsoever” before coming to Seton Hall.

“But now it seems almost natural,” she said.

Jones is one of four outfielders rotating through three spots. Vander May still has her take outfield and infield practice, because he thinks she will eventually play second base or shortstop.

But after what Jones has been through, playing anywhere is noteworthy.

“It’s a miracle,” Vander May said. “The fact that she’s even on the field — the injury that she’s had has ruined people’s careers forever. The last thing we thought was that we’d have Whitney back for this season. She’s just worked so, so hard.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]


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