Black Her-Story: LSU Softball Stories – A.J. Andrews, The Beginning of an Era
BATON ROUGE, La. – The Andrews era began in 2012 when A.J. Andrews laced up her cleats for the LSU Tigers. Andrews was honored as a 2013 NFCA All-American and went on to do great things after LSU, breaking barriers for women in softball around the world.
Andrews put the SEC and softball world on notice in 2012. Andrews showcased her amazing speed on the bags on day one and led the team with 15 stolen bases as a freshman. The Tigers went to the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) that season and claimed a 1-0 victory over No. 19 South Florida in an elimination game that officially put Andrews on the map.
Let’s set the scene:
In the bottom of the sixth inning with runners in scoring position, including Andrews on third, Allison Falcon popped one up that was roughly five feet away from the outfield. When the shortstop turned slightly and caught the ball for an out, Andrews bolted and beat the short throw to home plate in what turned out to be the game-winning run. That play set the stage for what was next to come in Andrews’ illustrious career.
In 2013, Andrews put up astounding numbers. She had a .359 batting average behind 71 hits, scored 47 runs and stole 19 bases in route to being named an All-American. Andrews helped the Tigers return to the WCWS in 2015 and concluded her career ranked No. 4 all-time with 97 stolen bases, 19 triples, 116 walks and No. 6 with 179 runs scored. She also continued the rich history of LSU outfielders, making numerous diving catches in center field. Andrews concluded her collegiate career with 257 career putouts and three assists.
“Representation is so important and playing at LSU taught me that more than anything,” Andrews said. “LSU was the place where I would meet young girls that simply were fans of me because they looked like me. Young black girls saw themselves in me and believed that they could not just become softball players, but they could be the best because A.J. Andrews was doing it.”
When her time at LSU ran its course, Andrews became a second-round draft pick in the 2015 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) and was selected by the Chicago Bandits. After the 2015 season she was traded to the Akron Racers. With the Racers, Andrews became the first woman to win a Rawlings Gold Glove Award and was also a co-winner of the Rally Spike Award as the league’s stolen base leader.
When speaking about the impact of winning the Gold Glove Award in 2018, Andrews said “It was definitely something that proved we were just as good as the boys. It’s a big deal to be included in the conversation with male players, and not just placed in my own separate category – to be right there with everyone else.”
In 2017 Andrews batted .347 which was the third highest in the NPF and was named to the All-NPF Team. That year, Andrews was featured in the Body Issue of ESPN The Magazine.
As passionate and electric A.J. was on the field, she is the same way off the field. Andrews has been a vocal advocate for gender equality in sports as well as mentoring and building the confidence in young women through organizations like Play Like a Girl. Andrews believes women should not be criticized for their physical strength and sportsmanship, but proud.
“When girls feel like they can succeed somewhere and have fun, it makes them want to work harder and showcase their talents,” Andrews said. “But it starts with having fun.”
Andrews was a mass communications major at LSU and wants a future as a sports broadcaster and on-camera talent. She has succeeded in that already as she was recently named an MLB Network personality.
“Playing at LSU taught me many life lessons and helped me grow into the person I am today, but more importantly playing at LSU taught me that I am limitless. As a black woman in this world, many people will try to put limitations on what you can be or what you can achieve and being able to shed any doubt of my capabilities and the confidence to do so really flourished as a Tiger. Now I am so proud to continue to inspire young women, especially young black women, to love their skin, love themselves and to live limitless.”
Many who witnessed A.J. at Tiger Park attests that it was a blast to watch No. 6 make highlight plays in the outfield and showcase her speed on the bases, especially on the biggest stage of college softball. But A.J. left the Tigers one last gift when she inspired her younger sister Aliyah to come to LSU, continuing not only Outfield University, but also the Andrews’ era of greatness.