FSU softball head coach Lonni Alameda talks Olympics, team culture at Pensacola event

Florida State softball head coach Lonni Alameda has been busy the last couple of months.

Fresh off guiding the Seminoles to a runner-up finish in the 2021 Women’s College World Series, Alameda headed to Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics as a pitching coach for the Canadian National Softball team. She helped Canada capture its first Olympic medal in the event as the team won bronze.

Not too long after returning to the United States, Alameda spent time sharing stories from her time in Tokyo with members of FSU’s Pensacola community last week.

The long-time Seminole head coach was the guest speaker at a luncheon sponsored by the FSU Emeritus Alumni Society last Friday held at the Pensacola Yacht Club.

Speaking for more than 30 minutes inside of a room filled with FSU alumni, Alameda talked at length about her program’s winning culture before taking questions. She also brought a number of valuable mementos that were passed around to those in attendance. Those mementos included an official Olympic softball used during this summer in Tokyo and a ring box highlighted by the Seminoles 2018 National Championship ring.

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After the event, Alameda spoke with PNJ sports reporter Patrick Bernadeau about her recent Olympic experience, the Seminole support growing in Pensacola and former West Florida pitcher Jeya Prasad, who redshirted last year at Florida State.

PNJ: Competing and being a part of the Olympics is an experience only so few get to have. What was this most recent experience like for you?

Alameda: “There’s so many things to the experience of the Olympics. There’s the Olympics in general, it’s just special and has a different energy and vibe. You’ve got the best athletes all over the world in one spot. To me, going to the cafeteria, you’re going to eat and there’s just all kinds of cultures and countries, how they eat and how they do things. It’s so cool and surreal, so there’s the big experience of that.”

PNJ: Team Canada earned its first medal in the sport of softball. How does it feel to be a part of history?

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Alameda: “If you’re with your team and you want to get on the podium, you wonder how do you do that. To make history, and I’ve been with Canada since 2001 so I’ve been with those girls for a while, to be able to see it through, it was really surreal. I think I also walked away with what commitment looks like at that level. Danielle Lawrie, Lauren Bay, they hadn’t seen their kids in 80 days. They’ve been away from their children for 80 days. It’s one thing to commit as a college athlete with other college athletes, but to be able to commit to a team and know that you’re having to make a decision and not be around family, it was so awesome to see and to see the medal show up for them was really cool. I just appreciate being a part of it. International softball is so different from college softball, so I got to learn on both sides of that, and that’s special, too.”

PNJ: As FSU competed in this past Women’s College World Series, the Pensacola-area held a number of watch-parties cheering the Seminoles on. With this kind enthusiastic support for you and your program in this area, what is it like speaking at an event like this?

Alameda: “We recruited this area. We’ve had a kid from Escambia (Victoria East), Korina Rosario (West Florida) was awesome for us. So knowing that you are matching alumni and boosters with people that love softball at a high level, and then you’ve got kids that are looking to play at Florida State from the high school level, it’s a special place over here. I think the biggest thing when I come to events like this is that 10 years ago, I was trying to conjure people up and to be like ‘Hey, softball is a great sport. Be a part of it.’ People started stepping up and being a part of it. Now come in here and you see familiar faces; they’ve been with you on road trips, they travel out to see you play and come to Tallahassee. It’s almost like talking to your team.”

PNJ: One of the players from this area who is currently on your team is Jeya Presad. What was it like coaching her this past season?

Alameda: “Jeya Presad is the epitome of an overachiever. She’s definitely come to Florida State academically getting after it and athletically pushing herself at new levels. It’s good to be in high school and be the big fish in a little pond, even though the little ponds can be so competitive, but then you get to college and that level definitely pushes you. She’s responded to every single challenge she’s gotten. I’m really excited to see her. This will be her freshman year, she redshirted her last year, so I’m excited to see the growth she’s made.”

PNJ: Who do you think the future holds for Jeya as a Seminole?

Alameda: “When players like that can get to environments like this and see how much support they have, they know they’re working for a bigger picture. So the drive to get up and run in the morning and get up and lift, there’s a bigger support system for you, especially here in your hometown when you are coming back in the summer and doing things. So I’m excited for Jaya. The world is at her feet and if she can keep getting after it and keep pulling from the support systems to make her better, it will only make us better.”

Patrick Bernadeau can be reached at (850) 503-3828 or pbernadeau@gannett.com

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