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updated: 12/20/2012 11:08 PM

Driven to succeed, Behan finds a college destination

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  • Carmel's Jenny Behan has committed to a softball future at James Madison.

      Carmel's Jenny Behan has committed to a softball future at James Madison.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer


All of 15 years old for another month, Carmel Catholic sophomore Jenny Behan cannot legally drive a car yet.

"Well," she said with a laugh, "I'm driving. But, yeah, I haven't gotten my license yet. I can drive a car -- but not by myself."

She needs no paper to drive base runners in.

Two years from now, she'll have documentation. That's when Behan plans to sign a national letter of intent with James Madison University to play softball. Talk about a trip. She won't graduate from high school for two-and-a-half years, but she's already decided on her college destination.

On a recent trip to California, after traveling coast to coast the previous two months for her Beverly Bandits club team, the hard-hitting third baseman made a phone call to James Madison softball coach Mickey Dean and gave him a verbal commitment.

Dean is no stranger to the area. He was the head coach for the National Pro Fastpitch's Chicago Bandits from 2004-10, earning manager-of-the-year honors three times.

He'll be getting a player in Behan who as a freshman on varsity last spring hit a school-record .437 with 39 RBI. Her school-record 56 hits included 8 homers, 12 doubles and 3 triples.

"It's a really big relief for me, just because now I can actually focus on making sure I'm fundamentally sound," Behan said of her early, early, early commitment. "I can focus on every game. When I was playing travel, I felt it was always, 'Who's watching me?' or 'I have to impress someone this game.' Now it's more about me just playing the game."

Behan, a Mundelein resident, started playing for the Palos Hills-based Beverly Bandits in the fall. Three weeks after the team started practicing, her coach called her to tell her James Madison was interested. A couple of weeks later, she took an unofficial visit to the Harrisonburg, Va., campus with her dad, Kevin.

"It's a beautiful school," Behan said. "They're rebuilding a lot of stuff. They just built up the home side for the football field. It's absolutely gorgeous. It looks like an NFL stadium."

Before she left Virginia, Behan said Dean offered her a full scholarship. She called two months later and made her decision.

"I just wanted to give it a little time to see if there were going to be any other offers," Behan said. "I was still in the middle of my fall season, so I was traveling to Florida and California for exposure tournaments. When I was in California, which was my last tournament, I was just like, '(James Madison), that's where I want to be.' "

She won't be a college freshman until the fall of 2015, but she doesn't plan on being fickle about her commitment. Another reason why James Madison appealed to her was because it offers kinesiology and athletic training as a major.

"At a lot of the other schools that I was looking at, they didn't have a very good (kinesiology) program but they had a really good softball program," said Behan, the youngest of four children of Kevin and Judi. Her dad played hockey at Princeton. Her mom was a star high school athlete at Cuba City in Wisconsin.

For the last month, aside from working out twice a week and hitting almost daily with her dad, Behan has been enjoying a break from the game she loves. She played in seven tournament from Aug. 24 to Nov. 16.

"I love travel ball," Behan said. "But I never realized how heavy it was in the fall and the summer. I didn't stop playing from March until November this whole year."

It was all worth it.

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