Playing their way through college. Batting .397 and studying later

BARBARA JORDAN was a member of two national championship Amateur Softball Association teams when she went to see the Division 2 college softball finals in 1983 near here. Still in high school, she was so impressed with the winning California State University of Northridge (CSUN) team that she wrote the coach, toured the campus, and eventually won a $250 scholarship for her first semester as a freshman. Three years later, she is a senior beginning her last season on a $2,000 scholarship. And in between she has garnered two All-America citations en route to leading her team to two national championships and one second-place finish. She also set five CSUN records last year, including most runs scored, most hits, and highest batting average.

But mixing her sports and college academic career has not been without major sacrifice. A center-fielder who batted .397 last season, she describes a January-May season that barely leaves time for her 12 required hours of classroom credits. Softball practice takes up five hours every weekday, and there are 60 games a season. Two practice weeks of 10-hour days precede the start of classes. And there are tournaments that take her and 23 other team members out of class every now and then. Not to mention national finals, which coincide with final-exam week, requiring exams to be rescheduled.

``The only time I have left to study is between 7 and 9 p.m. week-nights, after practicing from noon to 5,'' she says. ``I'm exhausted.''

During the 17-week season, classes must be crammed between 8 a.m. and noon. Sunday is an off day. ``But I usually use that to sleep and eat,'' she says. Besides that, she says she never goes to bed after 10 p.m. and skips practically all social events on Fridays before big double-headers.

``Coach Torgeson is always admonishing us that we're here to get an education - to bring our books to tournaments and things,'' she says. ``But we kid him that he acts like softball is our only life.''

An active member of a social sorority during the fall, she says she curtails that activity when the season begins. ``Some of my friends roll their eyes when they find out I'm going to bed early on Friday when they're off to a big party,'' she says. ``But I find you've just got to cancel out some of the temptations if you're going to be committed to this sport like I am.''

A speech communications major who hopes to move into broadcasting or journalism, Jordan says other students and teachers treat her pretty much like any other undergraduate. Some appreciate the extra fame the team's success has brought the school, but the occasional professor will get prickly when asked to permit makeup exams or missed classes.

``Some hold it against you that you think you can slide by with less effort because you're an athlete,'' she says. ``But I look on being a scholarship athlete as being an advantage, mostly.

``Most people think it's great and are really supportive.''

Jordan's 2.3 grade point average is well below the team's 3.0 average. But, with her eyes on this year's Pan American team - for which she has been chosen as a tryout alternate - and 1988's Olympic team after graduating, Jordan says she is taking the sport more seriously than academics right now.

``I have the rest of my life to learn from books,'' she says, ``or take this or that class again. But I only have right now to play softball.''

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