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Get to know the next generation of must-know names that are changing the game in the series Introducing, where Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are celebrating the Black women and girls who are emerging leaders and rising stars in the sports world.

introducing-odicci-alexander

Odicci Alexander

Instagram: @double_seas

Name: Odicci Alexander
Age: 23
Profession: Pro softball player
Hometown: Palmer Springs, Va.
Guilty pleasure: Reading James Patterson novels

Odicci Alexander grew up in Palmer Springs, Va., a rural town with a population of less than 3,000. She didn’t have much when it came to resources, but the self-taught pitcher had more than enough when it came to creativity, as well as the love and support of her grandparents who raised and encouraged her to play softball. Below, Alexander shares what life is like off the mound and how the sport helps her use her voice to encourage others to find theirs.

Empower Onyx: How small is small when it comes to your hometown, Palmer Springs, Va.?

Odicci Alexander: Palmer Springs, Va.: no stoplights, no lines on the road, 25–30 minutes from a grocery store. A very small town, but that's something that made our community tight because wherever you go in Palmer Springs everybody knows you. We're just one big family.

EO: In Palmer Springs, you didn’t have a little league team to practice with. What was that like for you growing up?

OA: Growing up, playing a sport in a small town, you just had to make the best of what you had. I had to get creative with a bat and a ball. My grandpa had this stick and I would throw rocks from our gravel driveway and just hit it. I started on our brick house, but grandma wasn't having that. She could always scream at me and tell me, Get off the house! I had to go to the water well, where we got our water from. I would use that to just pitch. So, being creative and using what you had.

EO: What was it about softball that interested you?

OA: Softball is just something that just clicked. I loved it. I had a passion for it, so I just kept going. My grandfather inspired me to play softball. He honestly inspired me to be the best me.

EO: How so?

OA: You can be the best athlete, but being a good person makes you an even better athlete. People overlook that part of sports. At the end of the day, in any sport you play, it doesn't define who you are as a person. I try to instill that in these younger girls: Be true to you, be who you are, be the best person.

EO: Tell us what the adjustment was like for you coming from Palmer Springs to James Madison University?

OA: Growing up, I was kind of shy. I really didn't like to talk to new people. I didn't like to meet new people. I was always up under grandma and grandpa. They can tell you that I was not the most vocal person. When I went to college, there were a lot of things that I had to adjust to. I had to meet new people. I was on a team where girls were from different backgrounds. They had different personalities. I think my biggest thing was getting to know my teammates, opening up and being myself. To be on a team, you have to bond. We all had the same common goal, but to get to that goal, we had to get to know each other.

EO: What’s it like for the shy girl from Palmer Springs to now be a celebrity athlete?

OA: I don't think that's really like hit me yet. I was always just taught to continue to be the best me, be who God created me to be. I now have a voice and I've impacted and inspired so many girls that look like me or who don't look like me, or who play the same sport as me. While I'm on this huge platform my motivation is to continue to grow the game in a positive way.

EO: What’s it like when you visit Palmer Springs as the hometown shero?

OA: When I go home and go to the grocery store or someplace, someone always wants a picture or autograph or something like that. I love doing it and I’m blessed to be in this position. I love to give back to my community. It warms my heart and just to see people come up to me and ask for an autograph or a picture. That just lets me know—you've inspired this person, you've impacted this person in a way where they're looking up to you.

EO: What advice would you give to another small-town girl who is looking for an outlet?

OA: The message I have to them is to make your journey true to you. Everyone's journey is different. I get so many people who say, I want to be like you. No, I want you to be like you, I want you to be the best you, not me. I'm me. My slogan is, “Make your journey true to you." Did I think I was going to play softball? No, I never thought that. Just explore, try new things, try different things and see what fits you.