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Shortstop Alexis Joseph poses for a portrait on the roof of Peden Stadium yesterday. (Maddie Meyer | Staff Photographer)

Softball: Shortstop sports new name

As a freshman, she took the Mid-American Conference by storm.

As a sophomore, her average dropped drastically after pitchers read her scouting reports, but she continued to provide a spark at the top of the Bobcats’ lineup.

And as her junior season began, opposing coaches did a double take when they saw Alexis Joseph penciled in as the leadoff spot for Ohio.

Friends and family back in Alvin, Texas always called her JoJo, but until this past Christmas, her driver’s license and softball box scores read Alexis Zambrana.

“It’s funny. Every time when I go up to bat, the other teams think I got married,” Joseph said. “I didn’t get married, no.”

“Since I was 9 until now I’ve always gone as Joseph.”

Until Alexis was five, it was just her and her mother, Jenicka. Her biological father was never in the picture and Jenicka raised her on her own.

“I didn’t need anything from him,” Jenicka said. “Never did I accept a handout from him or the government or anyone. It was my family that stood beside me and now my husband and now her siblings.”

Jenicka married Michael Joseph in 1999 — taking his last name in place of her maiden Zambrana — and the new family began their lives together in Alvin.

Alexis took up softball immediately. She and her family were die-hard Houston Astros fans and growing up she played all over the field — including a very short-lived pitching career. Eventually, she found her niche at shortstop.

In high school, Alexis was one of the top shortstops in the state and was named First Team All-District and All-County as a senior.

Coaches tried to tell her she needed to move to outfield to succeed in college because she was too short to play shortstop.

“It never really concerned us because she has quick hands and quick feet,” Michael said. “She’s quicker than your average shortstops who are taller so she makes up the difference.”

To say Alexis proved those coaches wrong would be a gross understatement. She has started at short from day one and sets the tone for the game as the Bobcats’ leadoff hitter.

“She’s a kid who practices as hard as she plays everyday,” said coach Jodi Hermanek. “We joke with her all the time about how there are certain balls (hit toward her) that we wish she could grow a couple inches on but she has so much fun with what she does.”

Although Alexis is over 1,200 miles away, her family has followed her success and cherished the rare opportunities when they can watch her play. When the Bobcats opened this season in Houston, the Josephs hosted the team at their home.

With two children still in grade school, it has been difficult for the Josephs to travel to watch Alexis in person. But that hasn’t stopped her little sister Emily, 10, and brother Brandon, 8, from inheriting their older sister’s love for the game.

“They’ll do anything to have their sister’s number on her back,” Jenicka said.

“Emily even wore a jersey that was two sizes too small just to have Alexis’ No. 5 on her back.”

Although her siblings shared her number, they didn’t share the same name. But over winter break Alexis changed that.

Alexis had her last name legally changed from Zambrana to Joseph officially showing on paper what she has felt since Michael entered her life. 

“I don’t like the name step dad. He’s my dad,” Alexis said. “I’ve never really known anyone different. He’s always been there for me and supported me in softball.

“So I got his name. That’s what I got him for Christmas.”

It was a gesture that didn’t go unappreciated by her parents.

“Alexis, to me has always been my daughter whether biological or not,” Michael said. “I’ve always loved her as if she was mine and I was extremely proud that she did what she did.

“That was our Christmas present and I don’t think I’ve had a better one.”


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