x
Breaking News
More () »

Drake softball team honors former teammate

“We're coming upon the end of our careers and it's just nice to play for her and have that number in the outfield as a reminder of life being bigger than sports."

DES MOINES, Iowa — The number 15 will forever be special for so many reasons.

For the Drake Bulldogs softball team, it’s about preserving a memory of a teammate and a friend.

“We needed a leader, that person was going to stand up and talk and direct people where they needed to go,” said Maci Johnson.

Gabbie Jonas was a four-year starter for the Bulldogs, earning numerous accolades on the field for her defensive presence behind the plate.  But it was more than just her bat and glove that was so pivotal for this team.

“She was an incredible leader, so for that catching position that was huge for us,” said Tina DeAngelo, an assistant coach for the team.

She finished her career with 1,347 putouts and just two errors. Those two stats were good for third all-time during her successful Drake University career.

“Sports and teams are such a powerful thing you know we had 15 strangers that got on a bus together and decided that we were going to go play some ball,” Johnson said.

After being part of two conference title teams, she would go on to pursue her master’s degree in St. Louis.

But this spring, the 24-year-old tragically died. The team was hit hard with the news, but in the face of tragedy, they pulled closer together.  

They now sport her number on helmets and hats, a mural with a sunflower and her number was added to the outfield wall.

RELATED: Behind every good team is a good athletic trainer

RELATED: Return of Drake Relays a welcomed boost to surrounding businesses

Former teammate Libby Ryan can feel her presence when she hits the field for every game.

“Every time I turn around it's right behind me. it stinks that such a hard tragedy makes you realize how much more somebody means to you,” she said.

The team welcomed back her family to Ron Buel Field for a ceremonial first pitch Saturday. Her father didn’t throw it but went to where she would be: behind home plate, catching just like she did.

“Some people have a different persona off the field but Gabbie was the same person all the way through which is really hard to find," Ryan said. "She was completely authentic and I think that's what I'm always going to remember her by, you know ... she wore her heart on her sleeve."

This team will forever remember number 15.  

“We're coming upon the end of our careers and it's just nice to play for her and have that number in the outfield as a reminder of life being bigger than sports,” Johnson said.

Download the We Are Iowa app
Sign up for Local 5's "5 Things to Know" email newsletter
Subscribe to Local 5 News on YouTube

April 10 highlights: Drake Bulldogs softball team sweeps conference series against Bradley