|Feb 14||Stealing Hearts While Stealing Bases|
|Justin Dentmon and Jenae Leles met at the Pan American Games in
October 2011 and have been dating ever since.
After a long and successful week at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, Jenae Leles was ready to be home. She, along with the rest of her gold-medal winning softball team, was about to catch the red-eye flight back to the United States. It was October 23, at 2 a.m., and the team was on its way out the door, bags in hand. After stopping in the cafeteria to grab a quick snack before the flight, Leles was suddenly approached by Justin Dentmon, a member of the USA Basketball team, who introduced himself by saying, “Hey sweetheart, how are you? I just had to come over and talk to you.”
Leles briefly talked with him before walking out the door to catch the flight. She thought nothing of it and chalked the conversation up as just another guy hitting on her.
“Honestly, I was so tired and zoned out, I didn't think much of it. I didn't even remember his name,” Leles said. “But I did remember thinking he was cute."
Dentmon, meanwhile, was desperate to get to know her better. “I was initially nervous to approach a large group of women, so I waited until she was walking out of the cafeteria and then pretended to throw out my trash so I could talk with her,” he said.
But, that short conversation was not enough. Later that night, he looked up the USA Softball team, figured out her full name and decided to make a grand gesture.
“To get her attention, I decided to tweet at her and the USA Softball team to congratulate them on winning gold,” Dentmon confessed. Sure enough, his plan worked as he’d hoped and Leles replied, sending good wishes toward USA Basketball in their upcoming games.
Feeling confident, Dentmon then added her as a friend on Facebook. Leles soon accepted his request and the two chatted the rest of the week while he was in Mexico. At the end of a conversation one night, Dentmon boldly suggested meeting her in Las Vegas after the Pan American Games were finished. Instead, Leles suggested he just fly to California from Guadalajara so Dentmon re-routed his return flight to Sacramento, where Leles lives.
“I normally would not be okay with this, especially considering we’d only met in passing, but it just felt right,” Leles said. Later, she admitted to doing her own version of a “background check” on him before agreeing to his visit. She read about him online, checked out his USA Basketball profile and talked to a few mutual friends, who raved about Dentmon’s character, personality and attitude.
Dentmon arrived in California a few days later and stayed through the weekend. “On the first few days, I still had my guard up, “ Leles admitted. “But by the end of the trip, I could tell I was falling for him. He was being such a gentleman and we really hit it off.” For Dentmon, this trip had sealed the deal that Leles was the one for him. “I’d noticed her as soon as we walked into the cafeteria and knew I had to talk to her before she left. She just caught my eye and I couldn’t let her leave without introducing myself. After we talked, I didn’t second guess anything,” he said.
Fast-forward to today, 18 months later, and countless miles between them, Leles and Dentmon are still going strong. “We knew what we were getting into from the start,” Leles said, “So going out of our way to see each other and working with our different schedules didn’t end up being that big of a deal. We both knew this is what we wanted.”
Fortunately, softball and basketball have opposite seasons, so the couple has found ways to stay close while living hundreds of miles away from one another. Leles still trains in California, while Dentmon lives in Dallas. Comparatively speaking, the softball season is much shorter than the basketball season, so Leles makes every effort she can to visit him in Texas.
“It helps a lot because I make my own schedule for work,“ she said. “So that’s allowed me the flexibility I need to visit him as much as I can.” For now, the couple aims to see each other twice a month.
Both Dentmon and Leles admitted that there have been some tough times over the past 18 months, but both are quick to say that they never doubted the relationship.
“Just like with any relationship - be it a friendship or more - you will have ups and downs,” Dentmon said. “But since we both understood and were prepared before we got ourselves into this situation, I think it works really well.”
Leles added, “This past summer was probably the hardest on our relationship, just because I was frequently traveling abroad with softball. My phone didn’t work overseas and I was not able to Skype, email or chat with him like we normally do.”
Though they have had some rough patches, both are fully invested in the relationship. Looking ahead, the two plan to move in together in the near future.
“Honestly, if Justin had his way, I’d play softball until I was 50 years old,” Leles laughed. “He’s always been so supportive of my career and wants me to continue playing, wherever we live.” Luckily, Leles can train almost anywhere in the country and plans to move whenever Dentmon signs a multi-year contract in basketball.
Dentmon added, “Because we are both athletes, we understand the dedication and amount of work it takes to succeed in your sport and we’ve found a good balance.” For now, he says, “We’re just taking baby steps. ”