Amanda Genovese '15: The Art of the Steal

Amanda Genovese '15 (photo by Sportspix/Jan Volk)

Junior Amanda Genovese of the Brandeis softball team has a simple philosophy on life: “When I like doing something, I want to spend all my time doing it.”

These days, it seems like what the Judges’ centerfielder wants to be doing is stealing bases. As a sophomore, she led NCAA Division I, II and III with 57 thefts and established Brandeis’s single-season record. She eclipsed the program’s career mark of 73 steals in just 69 career games. Genovese was named the University Athletic Association Tournament Most Valuable Player, a first-team All-American by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) and the organization’s Golden Spikes Award Winner for Division III’s best base stealer. She’s kept up her pace in 2014 with 24 swipes in her first 22 games, reaching the 100-steal plateau for her career in a doubleheader against Endicott on April 3.

Amanda Genovese's 100th career stolen base

Genovese isn’t particularly tall - listed at 5-foot-7 - but she is lean and athletic. In a softball uniform, her legs appear particularly long, capable of getting down a base-path in a blur. She has used a combination of natural athleticism, intelligence and work ethic – with a bit of encouragement from her coaches – to become the player she is today at Brandeis. Not only is she a base-stealing phenom, Genovese is a .442 career hitter (3rd all time at Brandeis) who is already in the Judges’ career top 10 in hits (167, 8th) and runs scored (111, 9th) with a season-and-a-half left in her career.

When it came time for the North Haven, Connecticut, native to choose a college, Brandeis was the first campus she visited. Genovese wasn’t quite sold at first. After checking out some other schools, her grandmother encouraged Amanda to apply to Brandeis. She was accepted, and it was an overnight spent not with her eventual softball teammates, but with the fencing team, that convinced Genovese to move the Judges back to the top of her list.

“I wanted to do both sports at Brandeis, but softball preseason workouts start before fencing is done,” she says wistfully. “I wish I could do both, but it doesn’t quite work out.”

Genovese’s fencing career started during her sophomore year of high school. After a trial with the indoor track and field team didn’t pan out, a friend encouraged her to try fencing. When her high school coach learned he was getting such a talented athlete, he put a foil in her hand. As she did with slap-hitting and base-stealing, Genovese taught herself most of the fundamentals. “It was a lot of fun learning a new sport from scratch.”

Despite missing out on being a two-sport athlete, Genovese has found ways to apply her general philosophy of spending all her time going what she enjoys to her entire Brandeis experience. She is majoring in neuroscience with a minor in religious studies, serving as the undergraduate departmental representative for the latter. Genovese also works for the department of Alumni Relations as the Brandeis Reunion Student Coordinator, volunteers as a Big Sister and plays as many intramural sports as she can.

On the softball field, Genovese is  a natural right-hander who taught herself to bat lefty in seventh grade after seeing how successful an older player was from the other side of the plate. The softball strategy of slap-hitting, where a southpaw takes a running start in the batter’s box and punches at the ball, is a rare one in Connecticut. Genovese saw a chance to take advantage of her speed. “I taught myself how to hit from the left side. I started off bunting,” Genovese explains. “Then I tried learning to slap. At the start, if I got two strikes, or if there were runners in scoring position, I would switch back to the right side.”

At the plate, Genovese has been able to do almost whatever she wants with the ball. Is an outfielder playing too far out of position? Do the Judges need an extra base or two right out of the box? If so, the ball will invariably wind up in a vacant space in the outfield while Genovese legs out a double or a triple.

Once she’s made use of her legs and batting strategy to get on base – as she has done in half of her plate appearances this season – coach Jessica Johnson has given Genovese the proverbial “green light” to steal.

“I want all of my players to be able to steal a base whenever they are comfortable doing it,” Johnson says. “With Amanda, she’s so talented, it was just a matter of time until she reached that comfort level. I’d say it happened mid-way through her freshman year, and she has – literally – run with it ever since.”

Genovese has created her success by making stealing bases about more than just getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. It’s about getting the best possible lead off the base, seeing how defenses are playing, and adjusting her path to the next base. It’s about going on the pitch that relieves the batter of the most pressure. It’s about taking third base when the opportunity presents itself – 28 percent of her steals have been of the hot corner.

It’s about setting goals and making sure to achieve them. “One of my goals last season was to steal the same amount of bases as games,” she says. “Then I thought, ‘What happens if games get canceled, or if I don’t get on base one day?’ So I got ahead of myself. Maybe I panicked a little,” she says with a laugh. “I didn’t think I would steal as many as I did.” 

(note: all statistics are accurate as of April 9, 2014)

by Adam Levin '94, sports information director