Hard Work a Way of Life

Blair Bodenmiller sped across campus on her bicycle on another smoldering late summer day. She was rushing to get from class to softball practice, a trek she has mastered in her two plus years at FAU.

The captain of the FAU softball team two years running, and owner of a grade point average just a hair shy of perfection, it is Bodenmiller’s work ethic that sets her apart from her peers. For Bodenmiller, hard work is a way of life.

“She offers total leadership, she is smart, and she gives 150 percent, not just 100 percent,” says FAU softball head coach Joan Joyce, who recruited Bodenmiller. What Joyce found in Bodenmiller was the quintessential student athlete.

The valedictorian of her class at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Bodenmiller turned down offers to more prestigious schools to come to FAU. Auburn of the Southeastern Conference and Cornell of the Ivy League were suitors, but in the end she chose to come to Boca Raton.

“FAU’s program and coaching staff have always had a really good reputation,” Bodenmiller explains during a brief period between class and another bike ride to the Tom Oxley Athletic Center, clear on the other side of campus. “They’ve always played tough teams from around the country, and they’ve usually played those teams well. Plus, I wanted to be close enough to home that my parents could come watch me play.”

From the moment she arrived at FAU, Bodenmiller made her plans for success clear. Her sweat and dedication at practice made an immediate impact on her teammates. After all, for Bodenmiller, hard work is a way of life.

“Every practice, she is dirty, soaked, and she is extremely good at analyzing her game. Her hard work rubs off on everybody else,” says Joyce. “Blair does what Blair has to do, everybody else follows her.”

In just her second game with the Owls, on a chilly February night in 2006, Bodenmiller broke her foot running to first base. The break was probably the result of a stress fracture from high school cross country that never healed properly.

She had arrived at FAU only a few months before and had won the starting shortstop job. Bodenmiller, a muscular 5-foot-6 with a bright smile and a quick-witted sense of humor, immediately took a leadership role with the team. She was so impressive that her coaches wanted to make her a captain in her freshman year, an extreme rarity. The fallen prodigy was forced to spend the next two months in a cast and on crutches as her new team played out the season without her.

“Watching practice was terrible, watching games was bad. It was a feeling of hopelessness and uselessness,” she recalls, her nearly perpetual smile fading for a moment.

Following her injury, Bodenmiller rededicated herself to training. She spent the summer working out, rising each morning at 6 a.m. so she could train before arriving at the office by 9 a.m. After leaving her desk at a local construction company at 5 p.m. she would head to a nearby field to meet her dad, Dennis, for more practice. There he would hit hundreds of groundballs at shortstop and she would field them from every conceivable angle, preparing for any situation she might encounter in a game.

The hard work paid off. Bodenmiller started all 65 games for the Owls last season. She was second on the team with 33 RBI and 6 home runs while hitting .225, mostly in the clean-up spot. She also stole 12 bases in 14 attempts and had a .928 fielding percentage at shortstop. The Owls had team success as well, winning the Sun Belt Conference tournament over heavily favored Louisiana-Lafayette.

Overcoming the broken bone in her foot to regain her starting position last season was a tribute to Bodenmiller’s outstanding work ethic. Her family, specifically her older brother Blake, is the driving force behind that effort.

“Competition with my brother has been a constant in my life. We’re six years apart, so I was always at a disadvantage. I hated losing to him,” she says. “That’s probably why I always wanted to do well in school. He could always overpower me physically, but when it came to grades, I kicked his butt.”

Both of her parents and her brother were athletes. Blake played baseball for the national powerhouse Georgia Bulldogs. In their “before children” years, the senior Bodenmillers both ran road races.

“My dad played baseball and basketball. My mom snuck into one of her brother’s Little League games and played until her hair fell out of her helmet, and they kicked her out! She was a cheerleader in high school, but insists that it was only because she didn’t have the opportunity to play sports,” Bodenmiller notes. “There’s definitely athletic blood in the family.”

Bodenmiller also shines in the classroom. She recently graduated from the University Scholars, an elite academic program offered at the Boca Raton campus. She is pursuing a political science major with a minor in French.

“I’ll finish with my degree and French minor a semester early. I need to find a master’s program that interests me so that I can stay in school and finish out my softball career,” she says.

Her medical redshirting caused her to complete an entire academic year without playing on the field. So Bodenmiller will now spend five years at FAU. Coach Joyce and the softball team are happy she is sticking around.

“She is certainly going to be our team leader for the next three years. She isn’t the most talented player I have ever coached, but she is one of the hardest-working,” says Joyce.

For Bodenmiller there is no other way. Hard work is just a way of life.