Kayla Lombardo Joins 'From Phenom To The Farm:' Episode 61
As the lead editor for Softball America, Kayla Lombardo is on the forefront of amplifying the world of softball, telling stories of women’s athletics, and persevering through challenges associated with covering a sport that often doesn’t get the nationwide shine it deserves.
Essentially, it’s the job she’s been preparing her whole life for.
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Lombardo is a softball lifer who fell in love with the game from an early age. The native of Pompton Plains, New Jersey, spent summer after summer on the softball diamond, but found few opportunities to witness the game on a bigger stage.
“There wasn’t a ton of representation (…) on television at that time for softball,” said Lombardo. “You would see one of the final games of the Women’s College World Series or the last few games, but you didn’t have a ton of softball on television.”
Lombardo instead gravitated towards watching MLB games in the absence of televised softball. She grew up a Yankees fan, and for a young athlete looking for a player to mimic while on the diamond, there was a fairly obvious choice.
“A lot of little girls and young women wanted to date Derek Jeter—I wanted to play like Derek Jeter,” said Lombardo. “I would emulate his jump throws at shortstop, would pump my fist like him if I did something well. I would watch those Yankee teams and learn how to compete, learn how to win from watching those teams play.”
After putting up Barry Bonds-esque numbers during her senior year of high school, playing softball in college was a no-brainer for Lombardo. Even before enrolling, Lombardo had aspirations to become a journalist, and took her talents to Fordham in part because of the school’s academic reputation.
Scholarly aspirations aside, Lombardo was a ballplayer first and foremost, which made her first year in Division 1 softball difficult. She started just six games, totaling twenty-three at bats, sitting on the bench for the first time in her life. It was from that bench seat Lombardo experienced her Fordham squad suffer an early exit in the 2012 Atlantic 10 tournament–a loss that spurned future success.
“We had lost that year in the conference semifinals,” said Lombardo. “I remember leaving the field with my teammate (…), and I said ‘This isn’t going to happen again, we’re not going to let this happen again,’ and we didn’t, we won the next three conference championships after that.”
The drive to succeed after freshman year difficulties paid on-field dividends, as Lombardo would garner multiple First Team All-Atlantic 10 honors during the remainder of her career at Fordham. During that time she also stayed committed to her goal of becoming a journalist, even writing a running diary for ESPN during her senior year. However, while she’d initially intended on covering baseball, plans changed.
“Once I reached about late junior, early senior year, I realized I had a passion for women’s sports, and for covering women’s sports, so I switched my focus to that,” said Lombardo. “Although, there really weren’t a ton of outlets at that time to do that professionally.”
Following graduation, Lombardo interned with Sports Illustrated. While her duties were focused on covering breaking news, Lombardo attempted to work with female-driven stories as much as possible.
“In my free time I would pitch women’s sports stories to the editors,” said Lombardo. “I was so mission-focused and mission-driven to get women coverage in sports, because there really wasn’t a ton of it.”
The internship led to a fellowship, then work at a women’s sports start up. After a pit stop coaching and getting her Master’s Degree at Lehigh, Lombardo found a home at Softball America, where she’s putting a lifetime of persevering on and off the diamond to make sure that future athletes walking in her shoes have softball players to look up to.
On the latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm’ we’re joined by Softball America lead editor Kayla Lombardo. She walks us through her experience playing in the Little League Softball World Series, bouncing around the diamond during college, struggling with the yips, and her long-term hopes for the sport of softball.