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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver
Kendall Potts

“When I survive, when I survive another day / This great divide / Side by side on the inside / Breaking up our minds on the front lines / Never again, never again will I be denied / Here I come.”
Kendall Potts’ college career has been anything but easy.
During a tumultuous four years at Baylor University that included a slew of injuries, several major surgeries and being cut from the team, the Aggies’ senior pitcher relied on several things to help her through the hardship.
The first was music. Pop Evil’s “Trenches” is a song Potts said perfectly sums up that period of her life, and it remains her warmup song.
“If you look at the lyrics, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s my life,’” Potts said. “That’s my entire life story in the last couple of years. It’s literally that last year of my life.”
Now, Potts is in her senior season at Texas A&M and her final year of eligibility, but it is not a typical senior year. It is her super-duper senior year — her sixth year of college — as she pursues her master’s in sport management.
She has a series of injuries to thank for her delayed senior season, but the setbacks and unfortunate circumstances that surrounded them brought her to exactly where she needed to be.
The issues began in Potts’ sophomore year at Baylor, when she started experiencing numbness and swelling in her right arm and limited mobility in her wrist. She had surgery at the end of that year to remove a bone fragment from her wrist and decompress her ulnar nerve starting in her elbow.
However, the solution was not that simple. Her symptoms returned a few months later, and she was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition in which blood supply to the arm is limited due to compression of the blood vessels and nerves between the collarbone and first rib, which caused her to have no pulse in her hand when moving her arm.
A second surgery followed in October of 2016 in which her first rib was removed, her pectoralis minor was released and one of the scalene muscles in her neck was removed. Recovery was much more difficult this time around.
“I just had a hard time coming back from that surgery,” Potts said.
At the same time, she was also struggling with winged scapula, in which her shoulder blades were protruding from her back and limiting the mobility of her shoulders.
“Basically, I’m skinny and boney and can’t keep my body in place,” Potts said. “That, coupled with not having a first rib, [meant] I had a lot of issues with my chest.”
She experienced bouts of chest pain and was eventually diagnosed with costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage connecting the ribs to the sternum. This caused a stress reaction in her second rib.
“The analogy they use is if you bend a paperclip, eventually it would snap,” Potts said. “But before then, it just has that bent piece in it, which is basically what my rib was doing.”
It was at this point that she decided to redshirt her junior year and was consequently cut from the team, but not before watching them go to the College World Series without being able to participate.
“That was really hard,” Potts said. “It was bittersweet because of course you’re happy that your team was doing that, but I also didn’t get to play in the World Series.”
Still reeling from the heartache of being cut from the team, Potts was hit with more bad news. While in physical therapy for her shoulders the summer before her senior year, an old wrist injury from high school began to get in the way of her rehab. She had her wrist scoped and learned she would have to have her third major surgery in two years: a full cartilage reconstruction on her wrist.
“There was just a lot of unknown,” Potts said. “Especially with the last surgery, it was to the point where I’m either setting myself up for something good or I was taking myself further away from it, like did this surgery just potentially ruin my career or actually help me? And it ended up helping me a lot.”
Rather than enjoying her final year of eligibility at Baylor like she had originally planned when she first stepped foot on campus, Potts spent her senior year — which she also calls her Non-Athletic Regular Person (NARP) year — in rehab and watching Baylor play in the NCAA Regionals, where the Bears lost to A&M 10-4 in Aggieland.
During that time, she began to focus on another interest of hers: art.
Potts took two art classes during her senior year to complete her studio art minor and began to spend more of her time drawing.
Potts’ interest in art was a part of her life from an early age. At 5 years old, she began drawing the posters of Disney movies while sitting in front of the television. She kept with it, though she stayed away from realism until her senior year at Mansfield Legacy High School, when she took a ceramics class and a painting class and decided to start drawing more outside of school.
“I always had a mental block with drawing realistic faces,” Potts said. “I had always heard that that’s the hardest thing you can do in drawing and art. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I could really do that.’ But then I really forced myself to do it, and it got a lot better, and now faces are my favorite things to do.”
The ceramics class, a clay throwing course, helped with rehab on her wrist until March of 2018 when she began pitching again for the first time in a year.
Recovered from her third surgery, Potts had a choice to make. She could either finish her degree at Baylor, cut her losses and end her collegiate career there, chalking it up to uncontrollable circumstances, or she could pursue taking her talents and two remaining years elsewhere.
She chose the latter.
“I’ve always loved the game, and I’ve always felt like you get four years to play this game, and I just wanted my four years,” Potts said. “When you have something taken away from you and [you’re] told that you can’t do it anymore, you just want to say, ‘Screw you, I’m going to keep doing it.’”
Potts’ relationship with Baylor started long before she was recruited out of high school. She had grown up taking lessons from Baylor’s pitching coach. Waco was just 100 miles south of her hometown of Arlington.
But, she said, there was always something in the back of her mind drawing her to A&M, comparing it to the distracted boyfriend meme.
“I’m that guy, my angry girlfriend is Baylor and the girl I’m looking at is Texas A&M,” Potts said. “It was always in the back of my mind. Even though Baylor was at the forefront, it was like, there’s always been something about this place that I’ve been drawn to.”
It wasn’t all for nothing though. While recently cleaning out his office, Potts’ dad found a list of her life goals from when she was 10. First on the list: “Play softball at Texas A&M.” Second: “Become a vet.”
“At one point, I was gung-ho on Texas A&M,” Potts said. “I’m definitely not going to be a vet, but even at 10 years old I was wanting to come here.”
Potts got the chance to make her decade-old dream a reality in 2018 when A&M softball coach Jo Evans took a chance on her. Potts joined an Aggie squad that had only one senior and was short a pitcher after Samantha Show’s departure to Oklahoma State.
“We were in a situation where we definitely had a hole to fill,” Evans said. “We had some options, but what was appealing about Kendall was she had some years under her belt. We felt if she could get on the other side of the injuries, she would have that maturity.”
In looking for a place to spend her final two years of eligibility, Potts had a list of desires: she wanted to stay close to home, she needed a master’s program that she was passionate about and she wanted to play for Evans.
“[A&M] just checks all the boxes,” Potts said. “[Evans] absolutely lives up to the legend that she is. I’ve loved every second of being here. It’s so night and day from there to here.”
Though she was older than lone senior Riley Sartain, Potts didn’t immediately step into a leadership role with the Aggies. Instead, she took her time to learn the system and its personalities.
“It was a very strange situation because even being older than Riley but also not having the slightest clue what was going on; I’ve played before, I know what college is like, but it’s also been two years, and this is a totally different place,” Potts said. “I had experience, and I didn’t have a lot of experience at the same time.”
Potts’ experience exposed itself naturally.
“The leadership came from her ability to go out there and physically help us win games,” Evans said.
Her perseverance through numerous injuries also allowed her to be more of a behind-the-scenes leader. Sophomore pitcher Hannah Mayo struggles with her own health issues, which include Type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism and celiac disease. She said having Potts’ journey to look to as inspiration has helped her in her own journey.
“I’ve had a lot with my health and I’ve also struggled to overcome things, and watching her do it and overcome it means a lot,” Mayo said.
Potts had a rough start to the 2019 season, trying to get back into the rhythm of the game after being out of it for two years, but she found success courtesy of an unlikely helper.
It was a technique she learned in a sport psychology class. In a lesson on the training vs. trusting mindset, in which the performer is either analyzing each step of their performance or simply relying on what they’ve taught their body to do, Potts learned that doing something creative or rhythmic could help increase her focus and allow her to just perform.
“I’m like, ‘Well, drawing’s creative. I guess I can try doing that,’” Potts said. “And it was almost unreal because one of the things the class said was when you’ve been training for so long, your brain gets stuck in that mode. I’ve been training for two years without being able to actually perform and use what I’ve been doing. I started doing that, and it was almost an immediate shift.”
During games, while the Aggies were at the plate, Potts started doodling in the dugout, which her coaches thought was weird at first. But it worked. It improved her focus so much that she said she began to lose whole chunks of games.
“I had no recollection of going out on the field and warming up, and I was like, ‘I might need to back off of this a little bit because this is a little bit too much,’” Potts said.
While she continues to draw before games — mostly faces — she limited the in-game drawing to times when she felt frustrated or started to lose her focus. Nonetheless, the effect it had was obvious.
On March 20, 2019, Potts began to hit her stride. Against Stephen F. Austin, she pitched all nine innings, allowing four hits with nine strikeouts. After that point, she struck out batters in all but one of the 17 games that followed. Over those 17 games, she was on the mound for an average of 5.55 innings, with an average of 5.4 hits allowed and 3.24 strikeouts per game.
She also pitched in eight Sunday games, leading the team to wins in five of them.
“She had some big Sunday wins for us,” Evans said. “That’s impressive to me, to see a pitcher who can get out there after teams have already seen her once, watched film on her, and then she’s able to come out that third day and attack hitters and be so successful.”
But Potts wasn’t having success just on the mound.
Last spring, Potts saw a mass email about a student art exhibit called ArtFest 2019, hosted by the Memorial Student Center’s Visual Arts Committee. She entered three drawings: Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier from “Captain America,” a fox and a jaguar.
Her Bucky Barnes won second place out of 92 entries.
“I got that email right after weights, and I jumped and screamed in the weight room,” Potts said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I actually won.’”
Winning isn’t something Potts said she or the team experienced much last season.
The Aggies finished the 2019 season with a 28-27 record, capping off their NCAA Regionals appearance with back-to-back losses to Houston and No. 9 Texas.
Though she didn’t see the College World Series run that she missed out on in 2017, Potts said the 28 wins were enough to make her first year in Aggieland a success, despite having been out of the game for two years prior with injuries and surgeries.
“To be honest, there weren’t that many [wins],” Potts said. “[In] our upset over Alabama in that last inning, even though I walked three people to load the bases, I also struck out the last batter to get us out, and that was an amazing feeling.”

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  • Senior pitcher Kendall Potts calls herself a “super-duper senior” in her sixth year of college, and has the phrase embroidered on her glove.

  • Kendall Potts’ drawing of The Winter Soldier won second place at ArtFest 2019.

    Photo by via Instagram page
  • Senior pitcher Kendall Potts began her final season playing for the Aggies on Feb. 7, 2020.

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