Inside Scoop: Missy Penna

May 6, 2009

Missy Penna, Stanford's senior ace, is among the best pitchers in the country this season. The Miami, Fla. native ranks among the top 10 in the country in strikeouts, shutouts and wins and was the first active pitcher in the nation to reach 1,200 career K's last Friday. She is 31-4 on the year with a 1.35 ERA, has already secured her third-straight 300-strikeout season and has obliterated nearly every pitching record in the Stanford books. After allowing just three combined hits and one combined run against two of the nation's top three offenses last week, she swept both the USA Softball and NFCA National Player of the Week awards.

What did you do last summer?

Last summer I planned this biking adventure for my sister, brother and I. My younger sisters were playing a tournament in South Carolina, so I had this great idea to drive up with my parents and then bike from SC to Washington DC. It would take us a week at most, and we were very excited to start. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned. I got a flat about 10 miles from where we started, it began raining, my brother took a nasty fall, and we were chased by two big dogs. We finally 'found' a place to sleep under an overhang of a random hospice center in some tiny town in SC. The next day was not much better - I got two more flat tires (junkie bike) and I heard talk of quitting (not from me). The last straw came when I looked back to see my sister lying on the side of the road and moaning in pain. Thinking she was hit by a car I rushed back. Thankfully she was only experiencing severe cramping, so we shoved Gatorade and some vitamins down her throat. Our next call was to my mom asking her to pick us up. I was a little bitter that I couldn't continue the trip, but maybe it was a good thing we didn't make it to DC. We had no definite return transportation to Miami and were bound to get more flats from our junkie bikes.

Last summer I also worked with my grandpa's surveying company on Jupiter Island, FL for a month. It was really hot and I got bit by tons of mosquitoes, but I also often got to use a machete to clear foliage in the way.

What are your plans for this summer?

This summer, in some way, I will be fulfilling my goal of getting to DC - but this time I will be getting there by plane. I will be interning with Clark Construction in the nation's capital. I'm not too sure what exactly I'll be doing, but I am excited for the challenge of whatever my job will entail. I might even be working on a green or sustainable structure, which really interests me because of the seemingly limitless possibilities and current innovative thinking associated with sustainable structures.

What is the scariest/craziest thing that you've ever done?

I think one of the scariest/dumbest ideas I ever had was going on a summer bike ride at night in Shark Valley. Shark Valley is a pathway in the Everglades that is open during the day for walkers and bikers and it surrounded by alligator infested marshes. It is closed at night, but it's easy to go under the barricade, and we had a good time the previous winter biking the 15 miles and throwing apples to the gators. This second time was different. What we didn't realize was that the alligators were particularly active this time because of mating and a current drought. At midnight on the two lane, pitch black road through the Everglades, I nearly ran over an alligator that was longer than the lane we were driving in (10-12 ft maybe?). We finally got to the path and biked for about 10 minutes before the loud and close alligator mating calls scared us back into the car and on our way home to our beds.

Describe something you're NOT good at.

I have a very bad short term memory. I can't seem to remember where I put stuff that I had in my hands two minutes ago. I am always trying to remember where I last parked my bike and recently found my bike after six months of thinking that it was 'stolen.' (I actually parked it near a late night eatery and forgot about it). My phone seems to be the unlucky recipient of most of my forgetfulness. Two weeks after I got my first phone, I forgot I put it on the baby seat of my bike and I later found it crushed in the middle of the road. It's also lived through the washer machine. My favorite was when my phone decided to take a trip to Arizona while I was in New York. My mom got a call from a flight attendant letting her know that I had left my phone on the plane and it had taken a trip without me.

Do you have any hidden talents?

In high school my sisters and I would play a game in which we would guess where books came from based on their smell. We would smell a new book and guess if it came from Borders, Barnes and Noble, or the local bookstore. We could also guess the owner of a used textbook based on the smell and our friends would give us an anonymous textbook so that we could guess whose it was. I was pretty good at it at one time, although I think I have lost a bit of it since coming to Stanford.

What did you write your Stanford admissions essay about?

I wrote my admissions essay about my family and how competitive it was growing up in such a large family. I focused on the first time one of my friends came over for dinner and how we coaxed her to get us water while we chowed down on her spaghetti. Of course I also included how being in a competitive family made me work hard for what I wanted, familiar with failure, blah blah.

Anything you're 'addicted to' or spend a lot of time doing?

I love black and white cookies. They are popular in NYC, so not many places sell them out here so they are a definite treat when I do buy one. Not many people are as obsessed as me, but they have the perfect combination of vanilla and chocolate they can make everyone happy.

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