By Connie Wardman, M.A., SDLT (she/her)
As you unpack your gear and start catching up with old friends, be sure to reach out to all this year’s new faces, the rookies who are at the ASANA World Series for the first time. Following the popularity of last year’s Rookie of the Year piece, this anticipated annual feature will provide veteran attendees an opportunity to read about a first timer and learn more about the fabulous people who are the newest athletes choosing to join ASANA!
This year’s Rookie of the Year is Jonah Barry (he/him) who plays for Divas On Dirt, part of Atlanta’s Hotlanta Softball League (HSL), and his journey to becoming an ASANA World Series rookie is truly a remarkable one!
While Jonah has always been an athlete, he didn’t grow up playing either softball or baseball. Instead, he played tennis and basketball, playing the latter well enough to earn a college scholarship based on his performance. His first experience playing softball, however, didn’t occur until 2012 when he spent two years in Kansas City and joined softball team, Girls Who Love Bacon. He then moved to Denver for two years before moving to the south of Spain for six years.
When the World Health Organization announced the start of the pandemic in 2020, however, Jonah returned to the Atlanta area where his softball playing continued and his learning of the basics and intricacies of softball began. But he’s done much more in his life than just play sports.
His backstory? Jonah’s an honorably discharged U.S. veteran, turned firefighter/paramedic, turned international contractor doing emergency medical work in remote and austere environments. With his deep belief in being of service to others, upon returning stateside, he started his own company – the Set Safe Group.
Based on his experience working with NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), international peace organizations and the CDC in Nigeria during the Ebola outbreak, Jonah’s Set Safe Group is a comprehensive business that writes both health and safety protocols as well as emergency/disaster action plans and provides medical oversight to organizations.
Jonah’s company has a high volume of clients within major motion picture studios, events and productions on a global basis, but it also works within the Federal Contracting space to provide these same services to the Department of Defense. Just your average, everyday business – NOT!
Back to softball, however. Is it an important part of Jonah’s life? Absolutely! He says he plays lots of softball; given any opportunity to play, he will. Having returned home during a pandemic, he had struggled to meet people and find a sense of community until he joined ASANA. He’s particularly touched by how wonderfully kind and supportive his team has been.
“They’re an incredible group of women. Strong, smart, talented and fierce athletes,” he says. “Such a diverse group, with many different world views. How we come together on the softball field and treat each other with respect, as a family, touches my heart in a way I cannot describe.”
He believes for every type of straight person there is in the world, there’s also one in the LGBTQ+ world. And individually as well as collectively, we have to find a way to walk comfortably through this world, without fear, shame or judgement for who we are. To do that, Jonah believes we need to develop that solid sense of community, of family, that’s found best on teams that consistently bring that same sense of light, love and commitment to one another in the world as they do during a game.
Jonah transitioned as male in 2015 and is very open to answer people’s questions. “Being open to talking about my transition,” he says “opens the door to knowing me as a person. It helps eliminate potential preconceived ideas others may have about the trans community or me as a trans person.” In continuing his work to overcome the stigma associated with transgender individuals and ensure equality for all, he’s also working with ASANA Executive Director Angela Smith on the organization’s committee for Diversity and Inclusion.
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As I think back, I realize that I’ve often mentioned how very impressed I am by the ASANA athletes I’ve met, and I now must add Jonah to that number. So I hope you have an opportunity to meet him in person and welcome him to the ASANA family. I think he’s an absolute keeper!
Photo Credit: Jonah Berry