Softball senior Jessica Twaddle has been named as the winner of the 2017 OVC Steve Hamilton Sportsmanship Award, the league announced Friday. She is the first Murray State student-athlete to receive the honor since Michael Turner won the second-ever award following the 1999-2000 academic year. The award will be officially presented on June 2 at the conference’s annual Honors Brunch in Nashville.
The award is given annually to an Ohio Valley Conference male or female student-athlete of junior or senior standing who best exemplifies the characteristics of the late Morehead State student-athlete, coach and administrator Steve Hamilton. Criteria include significant athletics performance along with good sportsmanship and citizenship. The award is voted on by the Conference’s athletics directors and sports information directors.
Hamilton competed on OVC Championship teams in each baseball, basketball and track while at Morehead State. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1958 and a master’s degree also from Morehead State in 1963. He went on to have an 11-year major-league pitching career and coached in the minor leagues before returning to MSU in 1976 to become head baseball coach. He held that position for 13 years and compiled a 305-275 record while leading the Eagles to five divisional championships and two OVC titles. He was named Morehead State’s Director of Athletics in July 1988 and served in that position until his death in 1997.
As the A.D., Hamilton led the program to success on the field, in facilities and in the classroom. During his tenure, a weight room was built, an academic counselor for athletes was added, graduation rates of student-athletes improved and the University won the OVC Academic Achievement Banner four times. Hamilton is the only individual to play in the NCAA Basketball Championship, a Major League Baseball World Series (New York Yankees) and a National Basketball Association Championship Series (Minnesota Lakers).
Since beginning college, Twaddle has devoted her summers to working with Campus Outreach’s Tampa Project, a program aimed at developing Christian leaders. This coming summer, she will be one of the project’s eight leaders that oversees over 100 students over a 10 week period. She is also heavily involved in MSU’s local chapter of Campus Outreach, where she serves as one of only three leaders. She consistently does things for teammates such as offer her house in Nashville for the night if they need to catch a flight the next day and will drive them there and back, if need be. At one point or another, she has played in nearly every position on the field and has never complained, just wanting what is best for the team.
Twaddle spent six weeks in Thailand on a mission trip in 2015, where she taught English to college students. This year, she began serving as a peer mentor tutor with the university’s disability services office. She is an integral part of annual SAAC Food Drive that benefits Murray residents each Holiday season and last year helped organize a team trip to help with Project Linus, an organization that makes blankets for terminally ill babies. She is also active in helping with Murray chapter of Best Buddies and helps organize annual field day with MSU softball, which has grown in each year since her involvement. For the 2017 season, Twaddle and her senior class introduced a new concept for Racer softball home games, “What’s Your Why Weekends?” The concept behind the weekends were that throughout the season the seniors got to present causes they were passionate about to fans at MSU home games.
In the classroom, Twaddle graduated early in the fall of 2016 with a 3.97 GPA. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree in economics, she was selected as MSU’s 2016 Pugh Family Outstanding Senior in Economics. She is also an inductee of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the International Economics Honor Society. This fall, Twaddle was named as 2016 OVC Scholar Athlete, which is awarded to just six student-athletes league wide each year and is the highest honor an OVC student-athlete can receive. She is a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-District winner and a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, including a first-team nod in 2017. She is currently pursuing master’s degree in Human Development and Leadership at Murray State.
On the field, she was a two-time OVC Player of the Year, the first in league history, and a three-time All-OVC honoree. In 2017, led Murray State with a .390 average at first base and also had team highs of 13 doubles, 14 home runs, 25 walks and 46 RBIs. In addition, she is Murray State’s all-time leader in batting average at .374, hits at 234 and RBIs at 134. Earlier this month she was named First-Team All-Mideast Region by the NFCA, marking the second time in her career she has earned all-region accolades.