Knesel unites softball, service and faith

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Junior outfielder Josie Knesel has a passion for service, education and care for others. While most may know her for her dedication on the diamond and to SLU’s softball squad, she finds her identity as a nursing student, in her faith and through helping others.

Knesel, a St. Louis native, has been a softball player since she was very young.

“I have been playing softball since I was six years old,” she said. “Until I was 11, my mom coached my team, and all of those memories were great.” She moved into a more competitive level of play when she decided to join the St. Louis Chaos organization.

One of the greatest aspects about softball in Knesel’s eyes is the competitive nature of the sport. Still, when looking back on softball, many of her good memories revolve around the memorable experiences she was able to share with her friends and family. “Every summer was an adventure, since I was able to travel all across the country with my best friends and occasionally my family,” Knesel said.

Knesel’s travels, however, have taken far past the domestic borders of the United States. She has also visited the Central American nation of Nicaragua, through the Amigos for Christ organization. These past two summers, while in Nicaragua, she participated in an education project as well as a water and sanitation project. The water and sanitation project consisted of digging trenches to hold pipes. The efforts of Knesel and many other helpers gave every home in the Nicaraguan community access to 100 gallons of clean water. During the education project, Knesel and other volunteers assisted in building a school for Nicaraguan children.

The visit to Nicaragua was not only significant to Knesel, but it held a special significance for the children that she saw as well. “For me, the trip was all about building relationships, growing in faith and really coming alive as a person,” Knesel said. “One of the relationships I built last year was with a seven-year-old boy named Juan. I saw him again this year, and I am very happy that he actually remembered me after just one day of hanging out last summer.”

Knesel took the values of the relationships she made that summer and shared them with some of her SLU teammates when she arrived back home. This past summer, Knesel brought senior outfielder Emma Buckles and junior infielder Alyssa Tarquinio along for her second trip.

“Seeing Emma and Alyssa grow in their faith and come alive, just as I did last year, was very rewarding,” she said.

Now that she is back in the states and diving into the fall semester, she is always trying to incorporate and remember the valuable experiences she was a part of in Nicaragua.

“My trips to Nicaragua have made me more grateful for my education,” she said. “Just like a majority of students, there are days when I dread going to class. I try my best on those days to remember that I’m extremely blessed I don’t have to spend all day in the heat, building a school instead.”

On the field, she tries to do much of the same. “As an athlete, my perseverance has increased tremendously,” Knesel said. “If I can get through a week of working in 100-degree weather, I can make it through a workout, practice or game.”

Knesel is eager to begin once again with softball when the spring season arrives. “We have a great group of seniors. I can’t wait to make more memories with them and the rest of my teammates as we do what makes us come alive,” she said.

You can see Knesel and the rest of the softball team in action sooner than next semester, however. SLU softball will begin their fall season games on Sept. 10 at the Billiken Sports Center. They will begin by facing Shawnee Community College on Sept. 10 at 2 p.m., and will follow that matchup with a game against Jefferson College at 4 p.m.