I’m a Berkeleyan: Zoë Conley

Zoë Conley focuses before she pitches a softball

Zoë Conley is the first black pitcher for Cal’s softball team. (Photo by Stephen Woo)

“I started playing t-ball when I was 6, but I got really serious about softball when I was 13. Ever since then, I’ve been playing nonstop. By the middle of my junior year of high school, I hadn’t been recruited by a university yet. I kept getting told by college coaches, ‘Oh, you won’t get into a big school, you don’t have talent, you’re too short.’ It was disheartening. I wanted to quit, but my dad convinced me to stick with it. He always taught me that working hard is always the answer, that giving up isn’t really an option.

Now, I’m a D1 pitcher at Cal. I transferred here from Cal State Northridge as a junior. I grew up in West Berkeley — in Poet’s Corner. As a kid, I’d come to campus all the time. I dreamed of going here. I’m number 42 — it’s the number of Jackie Robinson, the first black player in major league baseball and coincidentally, I’m the first black softball pitcher at Cal.

I’m a pitcher, so I like being in control of the game. Just like for the quarterback in football, the game is on your shoulders — everyone is looking at you to make the big plays in the game. My dad always says, pressure either makes diamonds or bursts pipes, so one of my favorite mantras during a game is ‘make diamonds.’ That’s what I think in big situations. No game is bigger than the one before. Or the one after. I’m just focusing on what I’m doing right then — every game, every inning, every pitch. I’m locked into the moment.

My friend and I just started a student club on campus called the Golden Girls. It’s for female student athletes who want to broaden their friend group. Berkeley is big and it can be easy to feel isolated. We’ve already met a few times and we’re planning events throughout the year. It’s been great to meet new athletes across campus and start building a bigger community.”

This is part of a series of thumbnail sketches of people in the UC Berkeley community who exemplify Berkeley, in all its creative, scrappy, world-changing, quirky glory. Are you a Berkeleyan? Know one? Let us know. We’ll add your name to a drawing for an I’m a Berkeleyan T-shirt.