Why Athletes Wear the Numbers They Wear



Story bMark Carlisle

To the people in the stands, jersey numbers exist only to tell players apart, but to the people on the field they are so much more than that.

Athletes are asked which number they want plastered on their back all season, which number they want to associate themselves with. Few take this decision lightly, and many have fascinating and often untold stories behind those numbers on their backs.

Here are the stories behind the numbers of 23 Chapman athletes:

#8. Brad Steiner. Baseball. Freshman pitcher. 

"I chose No. 8 because a buddy of mine from high school was number 8 and got injured, and he lost his college baseball opportunity. I wear it for him."

#5. Kean Stancil. Football. Senior running back. 

"I chose No. 5 because that's the number of people in my immediate family. To me, I equated it as the strength of all of us together on the field. Football is a dangerous game, and a lot of guys are superstitious. To me that was my superstition. It helped me feel more safe, like I had my whole family with me. I've always played the game for them, but when I'm wearing my jersey, it's like I'm playing with them." 

#4. Jesse Staats. Baseball. Senior infielder/pitcher

"I chose my jersey number in memory of little cousin who passed away two summers ago at age 11, and he wore No. 4 in little league and soccer. So I chose it in honor and memory of him for his parents."

#32. Andrea Villanueva. Women's basketball. Senior guard.

"The number I had in high school was taken (at Chapman), so I chose 32 because it was my brother's number in high school, and I wanted to follow in his foot steps."

#8. Taylor Cartwright. Softball. Senior infielder

"The number eight has always been my favorite number. It was inspired mostly by my dad, any by some crazy coincidences in my life. First off, my dad has always liked the number eight for a number of reasons so he kind of influenced me to like it. Second, I was actually born at 4:48AM (4+4=8) and I was eight pounds and eight ounces. I have been No. 8 on every team except two that I have ever played on and it will always be special to me."

#16. Boston Kimmel. Men's soccer. Junior midfielder.

"I chose 16 because it was at this age that I had a significant injury – a broken ankle – that kept me out for a substantial amount of time. It made me realize how fragile one's health and fitness can be and that every opportunity to play the game that I love is a blessing. It's a constant reminder to play every game as if it were my last, because until you hang up the boots, your next game is not guaranteed." 

#24. Justin Young. Men's basketball. Senior forward.

"I was given this number the first day I practiced with the team my freshman year… I think the coaches intentionally gave (my twin brother Jordan – No. 23 – and I) adjacent numbers just cause we're brothers. We had another set of twins our freshman year that also had adjacent numbers when they played."

#24. Tyler Cook. Baseball. Junior third baseman.

"My favorite player has always been Derek Jeter who was No. 2, and so 24 has a 2 and then another even number. It's a superstitious thing that I've always had to be an even number for every team I was on growing up. I had the number when I first was on varsity in high school my sophomore year, and so ever since then, it's been superstitious, that every team, including Chapman and summer teams, that I have to – and want to – be 24. So basically, now that I've been 24 for a while now, it's a superstitious thing. I originally took 24 because two was too small of a jersey, as smaller jerseys had the lower numbers and the bigger jerseys had larger numbers."

#9. Jeremiah McKibbins. Football. Junior running back.

"In 'NCAA Football' (the video game), there's a feature where people can create a player. I decided to create myself, and I'm able to add accessories, different face masks, elbow pads etc. So I chose No. 9 at random. I'm playing through the game and was like, 'Damn, I look good in nine.' When it came time for me to choose a number my sophomore year at Chapman, I thought back to when I created myself and decided on that number. Now nine is one of my favorite numbers." 

#12. Taylor Hamasaki. Men's basketball. Senior guard.

"Ever since I was 5 years old, I wore this number because it was the number of my favorite basketball player John Stockton. He is a very unselfish player and is always looking to make the necessary pass or play. I like to model my game after him and represent that style of play, so that is why I chose that number… I know that a lot of players like to choose their numbers based off of professional players they grew up watching and loving."

#21. Osayande Aikhionbare. Football. Senior defensive back. 

"College defensive players cannot have a number below 20. And in the NFL, 21 is a very popular DB (defensive back) number. The two numbers added together equal my favorite number, three, which is what I wore my whole life from the time I was little. (In terms of specific NFL players, there's) no one I really emulate, because everyone's playing style is different but if there was one I really respect and look up to it would be the late Sean Taylor or 'Prime Time' (Deion Sanders)."

#14. Hayley Thorfinson. Women's soccer. Freshman forward/midfielder

"My grandparents got married on August 14th, and ever since then, 14 has been their lucky number. They passed that on to my dad and his brothers, and when I started playing soccer at the age of 4, my dad was our coach. I was on a team called the Blonde Barbies, and he chose my number. As I grew up, I always chose number 14 in all that I do. I write it on my foot before every game and have worn it on my back my 16 years of playing soccer."

Lucky 13s

#13. Kelci Douglas. Softball. Sophomore pitcher/outfielder 

"I chose my number because I was born on the 13th day of February. And after everyone else's favorite number was always 7, I decided to switch it up and be different."

#13. Anthony Fernandez. Men's soccer. Senior defender.

"I picked my jersey number for a couple of reasons. My dad's birthday is actually on the 13th, and so it is kind of a tribute to him. My dad works so hard for my family, and I guess wearing that number was a way that I felt I could represent him and my family on the field. The number 13 is also normally associated with bad luck, but I have always felt that it was my 'lucky' number."

#13. Markus Trujillo. Football. Senior kicker/punter.

"As a senior in high school, I got first pick to change my number or keep it, which was then 97. I did not want to be another kicker with a number typical of the much considered unathletic position. I asked what numbers in the single digits were available. The coach said there were none, and the only number close is 13. I said I'll take it, but he advised me not to with the understanding that 13 is labeled an unlucky number. As their kicker, they didn't want to risk any string of luck with me, but against their advice, I took it. Something ironic about the unlucky 13. The team went to the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) championship at Angels Stadium, and individually I was selected to the first team All CIF and named Orange County Kicker of the Year."

#13. Rebeccah Bortz. Women's soccer. Junior forward.

"When I was really little, my number was three. But then I made a club team that I worked really hard to get on to, and three was taken, and the next best thing was 13. I'm not really sure why (I chose 13). I think on my previous team, I looked up to my teammate who wore that number a little bit, and it was the next number after three that had a three in it. At first, I was a little apprehensive about taking it because there are many negative superstitions surrounding the number, but I decided to turn them around and see it as a lucky number instead. It has been my favorite number ever since and has brought me nothing but good luck on the soccer field. After I came to college, and Alex Morgan became my idol as I looked up to her on her rise to success, it gave me even more pride to wear 13 as we shared the same number and position. It will always be my favorite number even as I continue my life off the soccer field. I use it for all my emails and usernames too."

#3. Marco Saglimbeni. Men's soccer. Sophomore midfielder. 

"For soccer, numbers have a lot of significance and usually show what type of player you are or what position you play. For my soccer career before Chapman, I had always been No. 15 for my club team, and No. 5 or No. 10 for high school. But as a freshman coming into Chapman, we could only pick what was available to us. Unfortunately, No. 15 was not available, but No. 3 was one of the available ones. I took it because one of my favorite soccer players at the time, Gareth Bale, wore No. 3 earlier in his career. I also picked three because it is typically an outside back number, which was my position freshman year."

#7. Greg Johnson. Football. Senior linebacker.

"I started out as a lineman in Pop Warner, as do most of the kids that haven't played before. And I was No. 74 all throughout Pop Warner. But when I got to high school, I knew the game well enough and had the skill set to move to running back and line backer. I knew I wanted a single digit number, so I took seven. I remember as a kid, my dad was a big John Elway fan – who is also No. 7. I would always watch his highlights and interviews. The most impactful quality was that he had the ability and leadership to literally take a game over. He had an epic Super-Bowl-winning drive that I idolized as a kid. So No. 7 to me is more than a number. When I put on No. 7, it reminds me that If i put it all out there, I can lead my team anyway possible and control the tempo of the game. And I like that it's an unusual number for a linebacker and I love that too." 

#1. Nick Berardi. Men's Soccer. Junior goalkeeper.

"I used to be zero because I wanted to be unique, and somebody was already No. 1, which I wanted. This year, I was able to get No. 1, and I believe it can symbolize some sort of security for the rest of my teammates. As a field player, it's always nice to know that you have your number one guy in there. My idol Gianluigi Buffon was also number one and I wanted to be exactly like him."

#34. Connor Williams. Baseball. Junior pitcher.

"Me choosing 34 was a conscious decision and always has been. I wore 34 on all my travel teams growing up because my baseball idol, Nolan Ryan, wore 34 when he threw for the Astros. I knew a lot of teammates in high school and in travel ball that were close to particular numbers. At Chapman, the majority have nostalgia with a particular number and are proud of the number they wear."

#14. Nicole Moy. Women's basketball. Senior forward.

"As I started playing sports in first grade, I was given the number four. My sister was No. 3 so I thought, 'Wouldn't that be cute to be consecutive numbers?' But as I got older, I realized there were only a few single digit numbers – 10 to be exact. So when older team members chose the number four before I could get to it, I decided to add the number two in front to make it 24. But often times the 24 jersey was too large for me, so I then resorted to 14, still keeping the OG (original gangster) No. 4 in the jersey. But funny enough, as I got to high school, I would look at other teams, and their players who owned numbers with 4 in them were Asian like me. So I felt like it was just an Asian thing to do. And ironically, the number four is bad luck in Chinese superstition, yet we all chose to have a No. 4. Also, as for my current No. 14, one of my favorite players whom I look up to happens to wear this jersey also. His name is Troy Bolton (the main character in 'High School Musical'). 

#3. Lauren Sato. Women's basketball. Sophomore guard.

"I actually was No. 33 before I came to Chapman. When I was younger I had watched a documentary on Larry Bird and have loved him ever since. So I chose to be No. 33 whenever possible. However, when I came to Chapman Sandra Gao also wanted No. 33, so I agreed to let her have it. Even though I had loved being No. 33, I realized that coming to college and having this new opportunity to play college basketball was a fresh start, so it was fitting to also have a new number – No. 3. Now, I really like being No. 3, and I think it fits me better as a player. Also, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and (Allen) Iverson are also players with a No. 3 jersey that I have looked up to and have admired their styles of play."

#33 / #9. Conner Larkin, two-sport athlete.

Football. Senior defensive back.

Baseball. Senior utility player.

"The number behind my back doesnt mean anything to me. Baseball and football are team sports, so it's the number of men on my team is what matters to me."

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