Jocelyn Alo legend comes full circle with record

Jocelyn Alo is the daughter of Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. Until recently, she was only known as a family member and not as an athlete herself. But then in 2017, she broke one record after another on her way to becoming the youngest female basketball player to ever score 2,000 points in one season at Texas Tech University.

The “what position does jocelyn alo play” is a soccer player who has been playing for the New York Cosmos since 2007. This year, she was named captain of the team and helped lead them to a record-breaking season.

THE FIRST PARK Jocelyn Alo could not control is 100 yards from the coast and 100 yards from her childhood home. The backyards are now separated from the ballfield by a fence, and handmade signs line the road that runs parallel to the beach on Oahu’s northeastern coast. One says Keep the Country Country, while another reads New City, What a Pity. Everyone wants a piece of paradise, or at the very least what someone else thinks heaven is worth. The native Hawaiians are well aware of this legend; it has long been ingrained in their psyche.

The Alo family has lived here for five generations, under the shadow of the razor-sharp green mountains, their summits veiled in clouds. Jocelyn grew up on a 2-acre land with six family houses on Hau’ula’s Kukuna Road, much like her father, Levi, and his father, grandpa, and great-grandfather before him. Two prominent coconut trees form a kind of entrance to the beach at the end of Kukuna — Hawaiian meaning grow, appropriately. Levi proposed to Jocelyn’s mother, Andrea, underneath them, and Levi’s father, Pete, was laid to rest at the foot of the same trees some years later.

More homes have popped up on the lots around the Alo complex throughout the years, but the charm has remained. The stunning mountains — now renowned for providing the location for the Jurassic Park movies — are so colorful it’s like viewing the world through a green filter, and chickens travel from yard to yard with little regard for property limits. Levi and Andrea have moved closer to Honolulu to make it easier to get to the airport on their trips to the mainland to watch Jocelyn, the Oklahoma Sooners’ slugger who broke the NCAA softball record for home runs on Friday night when she hit her 96th career home run at the University of Hawai’i, play against the University of Hawai’i.

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There was no barrier separating the Alo houses from the stadium when Jocelyn — full name Jocelyn Aloha Pumehana Alo — was four years old. She and Levi would go the 100 yards with a bat, a bucket of balls, and a firm conviction — and, yes, a healthy dose of terror — that this tiny girl has the ability to transport her far from the life the Alos had dug into this land. Levi would throw her 1,000 pitches every day, 500 in each of two sessions, a quantity that seems mythical but that everyone swears is correct.

Her skill kept them moving away from this community and the people who gave it life: to a touring team in Southern California where Levi and Jocelyn would rent a little apartment next to a batting cage in Orange County and seek to develop the type of potential that more and more parks couldn’t hold. From Florida to Georgia to New York, each summer event offers a chance for stronger competition, more exposure, and bigger chances. People from neighboring fields would abandon their own daughters’ games to watch her hit because of her skill. The father saw his daughter’s aptitude and resolve to achieve great things, and he was ready to sacrifice — and impose on his daughter the same sacrifice — to give her the greatest opportunity of succeeding.

When Jocelyn was in seventh grade, he had his convictions confirmed at a BYU camp on the mainland. She struck the ball so hard that she was judged a danger to the younger girls, so she was brought up to play with the high school girls, where she instilled dread in them as well. The BYU coach presented Jocelyn with her first Division I offer at the conclusion of the camp, but he grabbed Levi aside and told him, “If she continues hitting this like this, she won’t be coming to BYU.”

Jocelyn would train by jogging up the slopes on Kukuna’s mountain end while they were at home. “If it’s good enough for Walter Payton and Jerry Rice, it’s good enough for us,” Levi adds.

Jocelyn Alo had to wait eight games before hitting home run No. 96 against Hawaii in Hawaii on Friday. “It’s a huge relief,” she exclaims. courtesy of the state of Oklahoma

The tales stack up one on top of the other. Here’s an example: Todd Koishigawa, Jocelyn’s high school baseball coach, was having trouble motivating his starting catcher. Koishigawa noticed the kid’s potential, but all he attempted failed. So one day, after bringing Jocelyn to baseball practice from softball practice, he told his squad that Alo, who was a catcher at the time, would be joining the baseball club from that day forward.

Koishigawa saw his catcher’s response and quickly understood his error. “His face sunk,” recounts Koishigawa. “He knew if she was playing baseball, he would never be able to defeat her.”

On Oahu, Koishigawa managed a batting cage before going on to scout and teach in the Diamondbacks’ organization. “We used to crank the machine up to 90 mph just so we could see her launch line drives into the rear of the cage,” Koishigawa remembers of Jocelyn and Levi’s visits virtually every day during Jocelyn’s high school years.

Patty Gasso, the Hall of Fame coach from Oklahoma, stood on the field Friday night and turned to wave to the Alo family, who had gathered in front of the third-base dugout at the University of Hawai’i to congratulate Jocelyn following her record-breaking effort. “You look at Jocelyn Alo’s and this family’s past. Her father spent a lot of money to send her to the mainland, and much more money to get her to a competitive level. The commitment, on the other hand, is something else entirely. There’s another level that we on the mainland are completely unaware of.”

Levi Alo used to throw 1,000 pitches each day to Jocelyn Alo. She’s become the most prolific home run hitter in NCAA softball history under Patty Gasso’s tutelage. courtesy of the state of Oklahoma

THE END WAS EXTREMELY LONG. She tied former Sooner Lauren Chamberlain’s record of 95 home runs established against Texas State on Feb. 20. That home run was like a siren cry to all college softball teams in the country: don’t be the one to give up the game’s first home run.

Alo was walked frequently and unnecessarily. Over the following eight games, she was walked sixteen times, and the approach seldom appeared to have a purpose; the unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Sooners rolled over their opponents in seven of those eight games.

Chamberlain stood in the stands at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, California, two weeks ago sure that Alo would shatter her record over the course of the Sooners’ five games. “I can’t help but pull for her because I care so much about her as a person,” Chamberlain added. “This isn’t a record that gets broken every year. It’s been seven years since I got it, and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s given me a lot, and Jocelyn now deserves it.” The stadium was packed with fans eager to watch Alo smash the record. Volunteers went outside the outfield barrier in search of the world-record-breaking ball. Instead, the tournament marked the start of a long and arduous journey.

The Sooners’ fury peaked in the third inning of their 8-0 run-rule victory against Cal on Friday afternoon. With nobody on base and the Sooners ahead by eight runs, Alo was purposely walked, and the audience erupted in rage and amazement, including the softball team from Alo’s alma school, Campbell High School Gasso emerged from the Sooners’ bench after the inning concluded and looked to have a cordial but sharp talk with Cal coach Chelsea Spencer.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to give you the truth,” Gasso replied, taking care not to single out Spencer. “These coaches that pitched to her have my admiration. This is a competitive sport, and the best way to find out what your pitchers are made of is to put them in front of one of the top batters. Every coach who let his pitchers to go after Jocie, and who were often successful, has my admiration. But what does it mean to this sport if you’re frightened of being blown up on social media? Please, n’t make me laugh.”

But, in a bizarre twist, Alo smashed a two-run home run late Friday night against Hawai’i pitcher Ashley Murphy, a senior who challenged Alo with a curveball up and out over the plate and saw it boomerange off the net in right-center field, about 40 feet over the wall.

(“I have a great deal of respect for [Hawaii coach] Bob Coolen,” Gasso remarked. “There was every reason for him to say, ‘Not on this Hawai’i field.’”)

Alo walked around the bases like she was levitating, running from one to the next with her index finger triumphantly lifted. She threw the customary Hawaiian shaka hand symbol into the air and pumped a fist at her family in the spectators as she approached third base. Her teammates flocked around her at the bat, and she subsequently emerged from the dugout with a lei around her neck for a curtain call. Her emotion was a mix of elation and relief.

“It’s a huge relief,” she said. “Now I believe everyone can unwind and we can raise our game even higher. What’s more, you know what’s amusing? I believe individuals will resume pitching to me in a regular manner. They just did not want to be a part of it.”

Behind her, Levi, Andrea, Grandma Nita, and whatever many Alos and extended Alos gathered in front of the third-base dugout to celebrate. “I knew she was going to do it,” Levi remarked, “so it’s not really a relief.” Andrea, on the other hand, said, “It’s a tremendous relief. She doesn’t have to worry about it any longer.”

Alo’s home run was her eighth of the season, and her eight-game homerless streak was the second-longest in her five-year career. Her season numbers, like with each of her previous seasons in Oklahoma, are ridiculous: a.511 batting average,.690 on-base percentage, and 1.178 slugging percentage. It’s as if she’s engaged in a whole new activity, yet as Gasso points out, “This is relief, pride, and a plethora of other feelings. The aspect of Jocie about which I am most pleased is that she has always worked as part of a team. It wasn’t a case of ‘Let me attempt to break this record,’ or ‘Let me hit this out.’ She isn’t like that.”

As Gasso and I spoke down the left-field line, Levi walked up and put a lei around her neck and a crown of flowers around her head. Gasso hugged him and said, “Doing this in front of this family — you cannot script this any better. And it wasn’t planned this way. I knew I owed her a trip [to Hawai’i], but this could not be scripted any better. Full circle. Unbelievable. Could >not have been scripted.”

During an emotional camp with the Ha’aheo ladies softball team, Jocelyn Alo writes her autograph for a fan. courtesy of the state of Oklahoma

THE BANNERS hung from the backstop at the first park where Jocelyn Alo’s brilliance couldn’t be contained:

Home Jocelyn Alo, welcome home!

Welcome Home, Hau’ula Girl!

She returned on Wednesday, the day before the Rainbow Wahine Classic, and talked with roughly 70 girls and their parents from the Ha’aheo girls softball team. As she informed the girls, she stood on the infield dirt, trying desperately to keep back tears “This is really important to me. I actually grew up in this town… I want you to dream as large as I do, and I want you to go even farther than I have.”

Alo toured the circumference of the park to thank everyone who came while the Ha’aheo players and her Sooner colleagues held an hour-long camp on the field. She kept repeating, “It’s a full-circle moment, for sure.” Levi stood on the field, 100 yards from where five generations of his family had called home, fielding numerous inquiries about his daughter’s odds of hitting a record-breaking home run — or even seeing a pitch that may lead to one.

Gasso, who had never visited Hau’ula before, said, “On that field, I saw humility. You’re looking at a softball field out in the middle of nowhere. There is no outfield fence. And I’ll never forget her feelings as she stood in front of 70-plus tiny kids on that field, saying, ‘My dream is coming true, and I want you to be better than I am.’”

Jocelyn Alo, the top home run hitter in NCAA softball history, stood on that field approximately 100 yards from her childhood house and the coconut palms that symbolize both beginnings and ends. She spoke about how her brilliance moved her out from this little field and into a world of ballparks that were similarly too small to contain her. And, in the end, the same gift that had driven her away was the one that brought her back to where it all began.

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