New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
(This is the ninth in a series of feature stories on the 2012 inductees into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame).
Ronda Book’s summers were spent on softball fields. Her vacations were trips to various tournaments.
Some things just don’t change.
Book, who was a three-sport standout at Mohawk High, doesn’t play sports now. However, she spends her summers watching her son, Adam, compete, and family vacations are spent going to his baseball tournaments.
“My life again revolves around the ballfield, which is great. I was never stressed as a player, but as a parent, I can’t handle it,” she said with a laugh.
The ballfield exploits of Book, now Ronda Book-Beery, are part of the reason she’ll be inducted into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame on April 29 at the New Englander. In addition, she was a standout in basketball and track and field while competing for the Lady Warriors.
Softball was her first love, though. She competed on local teams from the time she was 9 and enjoyed plenty of success. She was part of four ASA state championship teams (1981, 83, 86, 89) and played in three national tournaments. She twice was named the ASA’s Lawrence County Softball Player of the Year.
“My favorite sport was always softball. We had the most fun playing. Our coach (Ron Swanson) made it the most fun of all the sports. As soon as the weather broke, we’d ask if we could start practicing. Our season usually ended at nationals in mid-August. We lived on the softball field from when it was warm enough to play until then,” she said. “Back then, we did not have fast-pitch softball, which is probably why I didn’t play in college.”
However, Book-Beery, a shortstop, enjoyed playing together with a successful group of friends.
“It wasn’t any sort of travel team like you see today. It was just our North Beaver Township softball team,” she said. “We were able to play together when we were 9 up until we were 18. We just went and played in different tournaments. The state tournament was always held in West Middlesex and you could qualify to play in nationals. Those were pretty much our vacations each summer. We played in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and Florida.”
Book-Beery played basketball during the winters for the Lady Warriors. The 1989 graduate was a four-year letter-winner and earned WPIAL honorable mention in ’88 and WPIAL second-team status in ’89.
“I had a good time playing basketball. I miss playing it,” she said. “I wish we would have done better. We weren’t a great team; we were OK. Most of my friends who played softball quit basketball by the time we were sophomores. My senior year, we only had eight people on the team for junior varsity and varsity. But I loved to play. It just wasn’t my favorite because we weren’t as successful as we were in softball.”
In the spring, Book-Beery starred for the Mohawk track and field team and was a four-year letterman. Her top event was the javelin. She won a WPIAL Class AA championship in 1989 and took second place in ’88. Beery was a two-time state track qualifier, medaling each year. She earned sixth place in ’88 and fifth in ’89.
“Because I could throw a softball, I figured I could throw a javelin. Since we didn’t have a fast-pitch softball team at Mohawk in the spring, I was able to participate in track,” she said. “I just figured I could throw it and, fortunately, I was able to learn how to do it.”
Book-Beery earned a scholarship to Kent State University for track and field. She was a two-year letterwinner in the javelin. She was third in the Mid-American Conference as a freshman and fifth as a sophomore.
However, a knee injury sustained playing softball in the summer before her freshman year shortened her career.
“I showed up the first day at Kent State with a knee brace. My coach was pretty surprised and he said I could no longer play softball while I was an athlete there,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was. That was the end of softball for me.”
She had one knee surgery her freshman year and two more her sophomore year related to the injury, which ended her career.
“I never fully recovered. The doctors wouldn’t clear me, so I was given a medical redshirt,” she said. “To not be able to play sports was a complete change to my life. My whole life revolved around sports. So, as a junior in college what was I going to do now?”
She ended up graduating and became a physical therapist. Book-Beery, who turned 41 on Tuesday, works for Summa Western Reserve Hospital. Now Ronda Beery, she and her husband, Steve, a Blackhawk High and Kent State graduate, live outside of Kent, Ohio. Their son, Adam, is a nine-year-old and a star lefthanded pitcher.
“He plays basketball and baseball and he’s an exceptionally good pitcher. My husband likes to take credit for that, but I have to take some credit for it, too,” she said with a laugh. “Because I went through so much therapy with my injuries — I was in rehab for two and a half years — being a physical therapist is what I wanted to do. It’s fun.”
She’s appreciative of all the people who had influences on her life, including her parents and two older brothers, as well as coaches Dave Bredl, Alberta Kelly and Swanson.
“I always thank my coaches and parents and everyone who supported me and took me around to practices and games,” she said. “I don’t think my parents missed a single event or game. I look back and wonder how they did it. I was close with my brothers. I always had someone to play catch or basketball with. My coaches made me work hard, too.
“I am very grateful for this honor. It’s kind of neat to still be remembered after all these years.”
TOMORROW: Phyllis Cournan-Racek