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Senior outfielder anticipates graduate school career at Rutgers

<p>Senior left fielder Chandler Howard starred for Rutgers, but her teammates say they will remember her for her leadership.</p>

Senior left fielder Chandler Howard starred for Rutgers, but her teammates say they will remember her for her leadership.

A mother plays an integral role in how a family is run from day to day. 

For the Rutgers softball team, senior left fielder Chandler Howard embraced that role as the "Team Mom."

“If you ask anybody on the team, they would tell you she is the team mom,” said senior center fielder Jackie Bates. “She has the biggest heart on the team and always puts everyone else before herself.”

At first thought of the headliners for the Scarlet Knights, two that come to mind right away are Bates and senior left-hander Alyssa Landrith — rightfully so because of what they’ve achieved in their careers.

However, Howard is the third senior on the team who has also been a standout with her production as a four year starter as a Knight. 

She brings a different element to the team as a leader, known by her teammates as a bright spot with her noticeably large smile.

When talking about herself and her fellow seniors, she described their relationship as “the perfect blend together.”

The group has been together all four years and has made a huge impact on the program. The three have lived together throughout all four years at Rutgers, forming an inseparable bond of friendship.

When deciding on a school, Howard felt Rutgers offered her everything she wanted. It was the perfect distance from her home in North Wilmington, Delaware. There was a sense of familiarity with some of the girls on the team and it presented an elite education. 

When she finally made the visit, she knew it was home.

Head coach Jay Nelson recalled a story of what describes Howard as player and person, perfectly.

“When I recruited Chandler — one of the days I saw her and I decided I was going to ask her to join us,” he said. “She had a bad day, but you couldn’t tell by the way she approached the game and that’s what we look for. When she faced adversity, it didn’t bother her. She went in and battled the best she could. That’s what she’s done here and has been a leader on and off the field.”

Many traits stand out about Howard, one of them being her durability. As a four-year starter she has started every game for the Knights the last three seasons and coming off the bench in only five games.

“Between the support of my teammates and sister and trying to keep the same mental approach the four years that it will be okay and I will have fun it helped me,” she said of her durability. “That’s my big thing — softball is fun, lets go have fun.”

She’s had quite the decorated career since coming up from Delaware. 

In her freshman season she was named to the Big East All-Conference Team. In her junior season, she was named All-AAC Second Team.

But her favorite memory came last postseason.

“Definitely beating Houston on their field to advance to the next round of the tournament,” she recalled in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament last year. “We never did, and it allowed us to play on ESPN.”

Although she may not put up the stats Bates has the last two years, Howard is no slouch at the plate herself posting a career .327 batting average with 17 home runs and 100 runs batted in. 

She had a career high .389 batting average in 2014, which is good for fifth all-time in a single season in program history. With her 204 hits, she ranks third on the school's all-time list.

As her career comes to a close in the next few weeks, she looks back on what an impact the team and sport have had on her.

“I think playing here has taught me so much about myself and how I’m tough and how much I can handle,” Howard said. “I’ve learned about time management as well as countless other things. It was the best time of my life. It was just so much fun and it’s sad that its coming to any end. It’s all I have really known.”

Although her playing career at Rutgers is coming to an end, she will be staying at the school for another year. 

As a member of the Graduate School of Education, Howard's focus remains on teaching special education and elementary education. She will also stay on with the team in the role of a team manager next season.

She thanked many for their support, because it wouldn’t have been easy without them.

“I want to thank my whole family,” Howard said. “They’re a great support system, especially my sister who has always been there for me and my teammates and my senior class. I wouldn’t have gotten through this without them.”

If Howard takes on life in the same light as how she took the softball diamond on a daily basis throughout the past four years, Nelson said he thinks that success is inevitable.

He had one piece of advice for her.

“Play the game of life like you do softball," he said.

For updates on the Rutgers softball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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