For those who have watched superhero movies on the silver screen and wished they had supernatural talents, Jaelyn Operana shares her sympathy.
A senior outfielder for the Edison High softball team this year, Operana proclaims herself to be a super fan of the Marvel Universe and the magical world of Harry Potter.
Sometimes, when a play develops just the right way and she has to leave her feet to make the catch, Operana can make-believe that she can fly. She said it happened in a Surf League game earlier this year, when she robbed Huntington Beach’s Shelbi Ortiz of a hit down the left-field line.
The softball field is where Operana feels most in control of her environment. Formerly a pitcher, she missed having a part in every play. As an outfielder, Operana was willing to take more chances.
“I feel like outfield made me a little more confident, in a way,” Operana said. “I wasn’t afraid to lay out or make plays that I wasn’t supposed to.”
Her game has undergone a transformation. She was often deployed as a courtesy runner, and she stepped up to the plate as a left-handed slap hitter early in her career at Huntington Beach.
Operana moved across town for her final semester of high school, and she joined the Chargers for her final season. An oft-injured player while with the Oilers, Operana played a full season with Edison, batting in the heart of the order.
The lefty slapper became a right-handed power threat. She broke a tie with a two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning at Newport Harbor to send the Chargers to a 7-4 victory in a Sunset Conference crossover game on March 14.
Operana, who has signed with Tennessee, had known a handful of the Chargers before joining the team. The most established relationship beforehand had been with Edison’s Arkansas-bound ace Jenna Bloom, whom she was more than happy to not have to face as an opposing batter.
Bloom said their rivalry began earlier than club, when she played rec ball for South Huntington Beach and Operana played for North Huntington Beach.
“Jaelyn and I have played against each other on rival teams for the last 12 years,” Bloom said. “I always respected her as a player, and we established a friendship a few years ago before she came to Edison.
Asked about Operana’s happiness to play defense behind her for once, Bloom said, “I appreciate that comment because anyone who would say that recognizes how hard I work and understands how competitive I am.”
Operana, Bloom and the Chargers’ Princeton-bound utility player Serena Starks were once again teammates in the Orange County Softball Coaches All-Star Classic in Irvine on May 21.
It did not take long for Operana to make an impact. She started a triple play with a diving catch in right field to help the Green team get out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the first inning.
Operana admitted that she got fooled on her initial read of the play, but she had the last laugh, as the runners had taken off, thinking that the ball was going to drop off the bat of Kennedy’s Samantha Ferguson.
“So when it came off the bat, it was going super high,” said Operana, who helped the Green team tie the Orange team 1-1. “I thought it was going to be a shallow fly ball, and then the wind started picking up a little bit, and the ball started going back.
“I just tried to run back as fast as I could, and then I was like, ‘OK, I’m just going to dive.’”
Operana had ambitions of playing all over the field. In Talia Hannappel and Bloom, Edison had its pitching plan well taken care of, but she still saw some innings.
Having taken catching lessons in the past, Operana said that she would engage in good-natured banter with Chargers coach Melissa Roth about playing all nine positions.
Intensity appeals to Operana. She said she used to do mixed martial arts, jiu-jitsu and taekwondo.
Problem solving also intrigues Operana. She enjoys escape rooms, and her favorite characters tend to be cunning in nature. She likes Loki for Marvel and Severus Snape from the Harry Potter books.
“I like to have ideas pitched out, but if the situation presents itself where it needs a leader, I’ll definitely step up because I really like escape rooms,” Operana said. “I’m always the first one to say, ‘Hey, why don’t you look under there? I think that might be like a hidden latch or a hidden door.’”
Operana also has a complexity about her. She is interested in two vastly different careers — working in forensics or as a physical therapist.
Born: Feb. 1, 2001
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 5 feet 2
Weight: 150 pounds
Coach: Melissa Roth
Favorite food: Tacos
Favorite movie: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
Favorite athletic moment: Operana started the first game of a doubleheader at Los Alamitos on April 19. She held the Griffins without a hit through the first 5 2/3 innings of the contest in a 2-0 win.
Week in review: The outfielder was one of three Chargers to play for the Green team in the Orange County Softball Coaches All-Star Classic on May 21. Operana made two diving catches, including one that led to a triple play, in the game at Deanna Manning Stadium of Irvine’s Bill Barber Park.
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