Senior education major a leader on, off the softball field

Regardless of how the second half of her senior year shakes out, it is safe to say that Jorgi Calombaris has already left her mark at Valparaiso University.

Over the last four years, the infielder has started 176 games for the Crusaders, winning a Horizon League Championship, while cementing herself as a cornerstone of the program and playing the role of spiritual leader.

“Jorgi’s heart is certainly in the right place,” coach Kate Stake said. “I know that she’s a person of very strong faith. She exemplifies her faith and her character very well through the things that she does.”

Last season, Calombaris took the initiative to partner the Crusaders with Team IMPACT, an organization that allows children facing life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to be a part of a collegiate team.

That spring, Valpo welcomed Andie Kalemba, a 13-year-old who was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition when she was just 8 months old. Andie signed with the softball program, was given a jersey and has been listed on the team’s online roster since. She serves as the team’s bat girl.

Needless to say, the involvement has brought a great deal of joy to Kalemba. None of that would have been possible without Calombaris.

“Jorgi was all about it,” Stake said. “Jorgi was definitely the big push for it. From day one she was the one that presented it and has thus far, run with it. Team IMPACT doesn’t function through the coaches, it functions through the players. I never talk to anyone from Team IMPACT, they go through Jorgi and the leadership group that she’s in charge of.”

Calombaris says her unrelenting drive and genuine love for others comes from her Christian faith, which serves as her biggest motivation.

“I am nothing without my faith,” Calombaris said. “Faith is everything to me. It keeps me grounded, it keeps me up, it gets me through the bad times, and it makes the high times even better. It’s indescribable.”

Here at Valpo, Calombaris’ faith has not only been tolerated, it’s been encouraged, which has proved to be important source of support for her as a softball player.

In addition to serving on a leadership team for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Calombaris leads her team in a team prayer before every game.

“She’s certainly a spiritual leader,” Stake said. “Most of our team—maybe 80 or 90 percent of them — do the team prayer before the game. Jorgi has led it the three years that I have been here. And faith is something that’s really important to our coaching staff. Faith is an important part to a lot of our players, so we make sure to allow it to be an important part of their experience here.”

Since arriving at Valparaiso, Calombaris has blossomed as a hitter. Through 32 games this season, she’s hitting a career best .312 with four dingers. But for her, it’s never been about the numbers.

“I try really hard not to focus on statistics or how well we’re playing,” Calombaris said. “I’ve struggled when I’ve played. I’ve done well when I’ve played, but one thing that’s never changed is my faith and that’s really helped me through everything. Being a really good teammate is what I harp on the most and what I try to carry with me.”

Calombaris, one of the team’s three seniors, carries an upbeat attitude and constantly looks for ways that she can encourage her teammates.

Led by Calombaris, the Crusaders are off to an impressive 19-12 start. Regardless of whether or not the team repeats as conference champions, when Valpo plays its last game this spring, Calombaris will exit the game of softball with her head held high, having accomplished her primary goals.

“Softball for her I think is part of her ministry,” Stake said. “I think that it’s more than just playing the game for her and more than just stats for her. Sometimes you have seniors that want to get the most out of their senior year and Jorgi wants to give the most from her senior year.”

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