Janie Reed and Jake Reed pose for a photo at a Rochester Red Wings game on May 10, 2019 in Rochester, N.Y.
Janie Reed was staying at a friend’s house in Oklahoma with her husband Jake when a life-changing email arrived.
In October, USA Softball announced its first U.S. Olympic Team in 12 years; when Janie saw her name among the 15-player roster, she broke down crying.
“Janers,” Jake exclaimed, using his nickname for her, “you made it!”
Jake knew better than most what it had taken for Janie to make the team. While she’s been chasing her dream of making the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where softball returns after being left out of the previous two Olympic Games, he’s been chasing his own dream of becoming a major league pitcher as part of the Minnesota Twins organization.
While their respective journeys mean the Reeds aren’t physically in the same place as often as they’d like, they’ve been supporting each other’s goals now for nearly a decade.
The two met as freshman at the University of Oregon in 2011, when Janie was on the softball team and Jake was on the baseball team. They began casually dating that November, made it official in February and dated the rest of their collegiate careers.
“It was fun,” Janie said. “Our seasons were at the same time, so that was kind of a bummer, because we rarely got to see each other play. But it was really cool. I think being an athlete at Oregon is a very special experience, just because they support their athletic department a lot, it’s a Nike school and it was fun just getting to experience that together.”
Jake signed with the Twins in 2014 and Janie graduated from Oregon in 2015; they were married on Nov. 18, 2017.
Janie (née Takeda), an outfielder, has played on the U.S. national team since 2015, having helped the team win world titles in 2016 and 2018. Jake, meanwhile, is expected to rejoin the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in Rochester, New York, this season.
Janie Reed and Jake Reed pose for a photo at stop on USA Softball's Stand Beside Her Tour.
Without the structure that college provided, Janie admits that things are now decidedly more complicated for the couple. While Jake and Janie are all but attached at the hip during the offseason, they’ll often go weeks without seeing each other when he’s playing and she’s coaching at home in Southern California or on the road with USA Softball.
However, having a spouse who competes in such a similar sport has its advantages.
“Being a professional athlete is, I think, a little bit more individualized than people maybe realize, especially on the softball side,” she said. “We train most of the year on our own, and part of that is trying to figure out what you need to be doing in the offseason to get you ready, and how you’re going to shape your own program. So I think figuring that out together, and figuring out how to be a professional athlete, is easier when you have someone that close that is doing the same thing.”
The couple works with the same personal trainer during the offseason, and they push each other to improve in the gym. In addition, they have the built-in advantage of understanding each other’s sport and will often talk on the phone about each other’s games.
“It’s always cool to have that full support, because he knows. He gets it,” Janie said. “I think we’re very respectful of each other’s space. Like, ‘Okay, if you don’t want to talk about it right now, just say so, because I totally get it, too.’ But it is fun when maybe one of us does have a rough game, to be able to talk about it with each other, because I think it’s just a different dynamic than talking to a parent or to a coach, or even to your teammates.”
Because of their scheduling differences, Jake has only seen Janie play in a Team USA jersey three times in five years.
He also won’t be able to travel to see her compete at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, which will now take place in the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The professional baseball seasons are similarly postponed, with the return date unclear.
“He hasn’t made his (major league) debut yet, and it’s just a really big year for his career,” Janie said. “So we just agreed that you can’t play the game with any regrets. It’s a big time for him to be playing, and I think getting called up is all about timing, so we just wouldn’t want him to be gone when that time could happen for him. So we understand. It definitely is a bummer, but he said he’ll be up in the middle of the night watching the games.”
While being apart so much is a struggle, the couple has managed to put it all in perspective, and remain each other’s biggest cheerleaders as they chase their dreams.
“We knew what we were doing when we got married, and we both realized it’s not going to last forever,” Janie said. “It may seem like a long time sometimes when we haven’t seen each other for a month and a half, but there is going to be a time where one of us or both of us are done playing, and it’s going to feel like this time of our lives flew by. So we’re just trying to enjoy the moment.”