Baseball family’

Chris Rambo and Chris Rambo

Susan Sontag’s third home run of the year was still completing its descent over the right field fence when her maternal grandmother, sitting in the stands behind home plate, began tapping away at the digits on her cell phone, eager to inform members of the Sontag clan who were not present of what had just transpired. ‘Susan just hit a home run, we’re winning 1-0,’ she said. While there is nothing at all unusual about this practice, it serves as a prime example of the type of family support the junior left fielder is privileged enough to receive. Attend any BG softball game and you are bound to spot a cadre of Sontag supporters – usually accompanied by Bruin the family dog – sitting about five or six rows up the bleachers. Not to say that other members of BG’s 2009 softball team do not enjoy similar backing from their loved ones, they most certainly do, but there is something unique about the Sontag’s that is found in a palpable sense of enthusiasm for baseball and softball shared by virtually every member of the family. ‘When I was growing up we were known around town as simply the ‘baseball family,” Sontag said. As a child in Monroe, Mich., Sontag spent her summers immersed in the national pastime. Along with her two brothers, she helped organize sandlot baseball games with the other neighborhood kids. The games, played in a lot behind a local supermarket, usually drew about 15-16 players, allowing for two equal teams. ‘I always remember being the only girl on a field full of boys,’ Sontag said. ‘I think that experience taught me toughness at an early age.’ When not roaming the local sandlots, Sontag competed in organized summer softball leagues and hung out at Monroe Jefferson High School baseball games where her father coached the varsity and her grandfather the JV. There were also frequent rides in her mother’s white Volkswagen Beetle, which was custom detailed with red-stitching, giving it the appearance of a large, German-engineered, gas-powered baseball. Despite being surrounded by competition since the time she could walk, Sontag said her passion is genuine and not the result of overzealous parenting. ‘I was never once pushed into softball,’ she said. ‘I chose to play in all the summer leagues and to do all that I did. My parents pretty much stayed out of the way.’ Upon reaching high school, it took Sontag all of six games to be inserted in the varsity starting lineup, where she would stay for the next four years, amassing three all-league, all-district, and all-region honors. Her senior year she led her Monroe Jefferson team all the way to the state finals, while compiling a video game-like .565 batting average to go along with 64 runs scored and 42 stolen bases. Sontag is not the only member of her family to enjoy considerable on-field success though. Her father, Dave, played collegiately at Toledo before becoming head coach at Monroe Jefferson where he manned the helm for 23 seasons, winning the 2002 state title, before stepping down so he could be free to watch Susan’s high school career unfold. Sontag’s younger brother played four years of high school ball before accepting a scholarship to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne. The family member with the largest athletic portfolio, however, would have to be Sontag’s older brother, Ryan, who, after starring as an outfielder for Arizona St., has been drafted as a pitcher by the Chicago Cubs organization. He is currently honing his skills at the club’s extended spring training in Mesa, Arizona. ‘Watching my brother win a state title and accomplish all that he did really motivated me do try and so the same,’ Sontag said. ‘He definitely set the bar.’ The expertise of both her father and elder brother would serve Sontag well when the time came for her to make the transition from high school to college. ‘My father in particular really helped me out as far as college went,’ Sontag said. ‘He gave me a lot of advice as far what to expect from a team dynamic.’ After visiting both Central Michigan and Ball State, Sontag eventually decided on Bowling Green because she found the University’s small-town feel to her liking. ‘I grew up my entire life in a small, close-knit town, so I thought the atmosphere here really fit me well,’ Sontag said. As she did in high school, Sontag wasted little time in establishing herself at the collegiate level. She started 43 games her freshman year, finishing second on the team with nine home runs and fourth in RBIs with 23, as the Falcons soared to an overall record of 33-12. ‘My freshman season was just an unforgettable year,’ Sontag said. ‘To come in and hit those home runs and then for the team to set a school record [for winning percentage] was just unreal.’ After slumping through injuries and swing changes her sophomore season, Sontag has emerged this spring as one of the team’s most consistent bats outside of Hayley Wiemer. Thus far she is hitting a solid .289 with three home runs and eight RBIs, and her 28 hits are good for third on the team. As proficient as Sontag is on the field however, her athletic achievements are notably augmented by her exemplary work in the classroom. Sontag, like her brothers, was an excellent student in high school, earning the honor of class valedictorian. Her 3.87 GPA here at BG has done nothing to disprove the notion of Sontag as a gifted and disciplined learner. For her part, Sontag gives most of the credit for her educational prowess to her parents, both educators themselves, for instilling discipline and a will to succeed in her and her brothers from an early age. ‘The rule was that we couldn’t go outside and play or watch TV until our homework was completed, there were no exceptions,’ Sontag said. ‘At the time I did not like it at all, but now I am very grateful for all that my parents did in helping further my education. They taught me to be organized at all times and to always strive to take the extra step in everything I do.’ Sontag, an architecture major, is due to graduate in 2011 and one day hopes to land a job with a major firm in a big city. For now though, her primary focus is on helping the Falcons (4-10 in the Mid-American Conference) turn around what has been to this point a disappointing season. ‘I think that there is a lot of untapped potential with this team,’ Sontag said. ‘But for whatever reason we just have not been able to put it together so far this year.’ Through it all, she continues to lean on the support of her baseball-loving family. ‘I owe everything I have to my parents,’ Sontag said. ‘They have molded me into what I am today, and for that I thank them very much.’