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Mogadore’s Lexie Handley follows softball dreams to Japan

Mogadore’s Lexie Handley follows softball dreams to Japan


By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor

The Japanese city of Anjo is 8,412 miles from Mogadore.

When you are chasing a dream, though, there is no distance that is too large.

Just ask Lexie Handley.

The proud Mogadore native is living in Anjo, which has a population around 190,000, halfway around the world for the opportunity to play professional softball in the Japanese Diamond League.

“It is basically the Major League Baseball equivalent of fast pitch softball,” said Handley, who is a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher for the Denso Bright Pegasus. “We are treated like professionals, we train like professionals and we are expected to behave and perform as professionals.”

When Handley looks back at her humble beginnings in the sport, the idea that she would one day refer to herself as a professional softball player still surprises her.

Especially considering that she always dreamt her future with be in basketball. She envisioned herself in the WNBA as the next Candace Parker. Also, considering that Handley admits that she had thoughts drop in and out of her mind about quitting softball.

Now, she can’t imagine her life without it.

More than that, Handley has found softball to be her glorifying platform.

Not only for her own aspirations and professional dreams, but as a real-life example for the next young player with a dream from Mogadore or Portage County.

Handley’s story started just like so many of theirs will.

New to the sport. Unassuming of talent and potential — and probably more excited and interested in the postgame ice cream than any specific detail their coach or parent is replaying in their mind.


Handley’s first years of softball were with the Mogadore Pink Panthers.

From T-ball and coach pitch, Handley transitioned to fast pitch and became a pitcher “randomly.”

“My dad was one of the coaches of my team, and we were aging out of coach pitch,” Handley recalls. “The coaches asked us, all in a big circle, if anyone wanted to start learning how to pitch. I was the only one to put my hand up in the air, and I remember being really embarrassed.

Handley was 8 years old at the time and her ambitious and confident choice to raise her hand actually fell outside of how she usually reacted.

“I used to be timid and very self conscious, because I was always the one that stood out because of my height,” Handley said. “Choosing something that was completely different than what everyone else wanted to do was not something that was a normal character trait for me, but I truly think I was empowered from an early age to make independent decisions and this was my first big one.”

And one that her parents immediately supported.

It was not long after that she was taking private lessons to learn the basics from coach Diana Linn, who Handley calls “an angel on Earth.”

“She taught me so much and was so patient yet believed in me,” said Handley, who also remembered that her sessions would always end with a $1.25 slushy from the concession stand.

Without knowing it, her journey around the world had begun.


Handley played softball in Mogadore through sixth grade before joining the Ohio Extreme based out of Green.

In her final year with Mogadore, playing 12U, Handley’s team advanced to the state-championship game, losing to a Garrettsville team led by Lauren Jones, who went on to have success in multiple sports for the G-Men in highs school before beginning a record-setting career on the Oklahoma women’s track and field team.

“I remember our mom’s and dad’s all painted us these super cute signs and put them in all of our yards before that tournament,” Handley said. “The one that was at our house is still nailed to the garage ceiling of my parents’ house.”

Within those smiling memories lives some challenging moments, too.

Moments she looks back on with regret, but also with an understanding that they were part of her maturing as a person and a player.

“Softball and I have had a very interesting dynamic growing up, because I can say with full honesty that there were times when I absolutely hated the game and could not wait to be done with whatever practice or whatever workout I was doing that day,” Handley said.

“I distinctly remember going to the field hours before practices to fit in a pitching session. Summers were hot and there were a lot of times when I despised it, but I think this is where I started to learn the value of work and how rewarding it can be to put effort into something that you enjoy.”

Even as one of the youngest on the Extreme team, Handley proved she belonged.

“At some point, it wasn’t something I had to do anymore. I started to love it, and I loved the people I was around,” Handley said. “It was around this time that I began to think that softball could be something I could love and not fight with. … My confidence started to improve, and I started winning big games. I loved the pressure of being the one.”


Handley attended St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and graduated in the Class of 2016. Her standout prep career for the Irish led to an opportunity to continue her career at the University of Akron.

In her freshman season (2017), Handley was named the Mid-American Conference’s Freshman of the Year and was Second Team All-MAC.

After a broken ankle robbed her from the 2018 season, Handley transferred to Auburn, where she pitched in 2019 and 2021, losing her 2020 season to COVID.

Handley graduated from Auburn in 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree in Science of Nutrition, then used her one year of eligibility granted by the NCAA because of the pandemic to become a member of the Ohio State University’s softball program.

She pitched for the Buckeyes in the 2022 season. She set two new program records, was named Second Team All-Big Ten, graduated with a Master’s in the Science of Sport Coaching — and caught the eye of a scout from the Japanese Diamond League.

Softball suddenly had another chapter. Actually two chapters.


Handley is fully immersed in living a softball life.

In addition to the chance to play professionally in Japan, she is also a member of the Kent State University softball coaching staff as a volunteer assistant.

Handley was added to the Golden Flashes’ staff by head coach Eric Oakley last summer.

“It has been a perfect fit for me, because I strongly believe in coach Oakley’s vision s and what he is doing with the program,” Handley said.

While in Japan, Handley has stayed connected to Kent State, mainly the pitching staff, watching film and offering preparation notes and strategy, despite being away from the team.

“It has reassured to me that when I am done playing, I want to be a coach for the rest of my career,” Handley said.

She is not done playing yet, though.

Handley signed her contract with the Denso Bright Pegasus in October and allowed her an entirely new idea of how softball can impact her life.

More dramatically, how it can 

“I don’t believe in chance, and I don’t think that there is anything that I want more in my lifetime than to show my joy for this game and demonstrate what living a true life of love looks like,” Handley said. “International softball gives me that opportunity.

“It is unheard of for a female athlete to be able to make a living playing the sport that she is so passionate about and so this opportunity is one of those responsibilities to take a bold step and do something that is not the norm.”

Just like when she pulled herself from her norm as an 8 year old, raising her hand to volunteer herself to learn how to pitch.

She is now shining on one of the biggest stages that her sport offers with confidence — something she could not always claim.

“I have struggled with anxiety and depression, body image, pressure of school and outside expectations,” Handley said. “Realistically, I have spent more time searching for who I am than mastering who I have become for the longest time. Now I can say with confidence, that the investments my small circle of people — my family, my truest friends and the coaches that have taken wild chances on me — have led me to a place that I believe I am capable of shining in. And that doesn’t mean just softball.”

More than 8,000 miles away, watches with the same pride as Handley has in calling Mogadore her hometown.


  1. Merrylou Windhorst April 13, 2023

    Lexie has done more for women’s softball than appears in her biography. Her determination, her massive skills and her devoted family have brought her to a professional. I coached softball at the high school level gor 25 years and Lexie was the most skilled pitcher I have observed. Bless you Lexie for all you are and still becoming.

  2. Diana Linn Mabie April 13, 2023

    Lexie you were one of my all time favorite students. I always looked forward to our lessons. You are an inspiration to all female athletes!
    Coach Diana Linn – now Diana Mabie🙂


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