Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cassie Tysarczyk Steps Into Justin's World

It’s one of the toughest names in softball, both to say and spell, but it’s also one that softball fans, particularly those in College Station, are used to hearing often.

The heroics and success of Cassie Tysarczyk are well-documented in the history books of the Texas A&M Aggies. A versatile defender and clutch, powerful hitter, this young lady led the class of 2014 from day one.

In her senior season in Aggieland, Cassie led the “Aggie S.D.R” social media movement, using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to connect with fans in a new, more direct way.

Cassie was not drafted to the NPF, but was signed as an undrafted free agent to the USSSA Pride. The signing united her for the first time on the same squad with longtime friend Cat Osterman. Though not often utilized in a starting role, Cassie’s presence on the bench only shows the tremendous depth on the Pride’s roster. She’ll be back next year as well, entering the 2nd season of her two-year contract.
Be sure you are connected to Cassie on Twitter and Facebook; click on the website names for direct links.

Let's start with a simple one. How did you get started playing softball? How old were you when you first "took up" with the game?
Funny story actually. My grandfather worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates, so my dad's side of the family had a love for the game. I played baseball until I was ten. The local little league wouldn't let me play baseball anymore and put me in the softball league instead. I remember crying to my dad and telling him I didn't want to play with the girls. When I was in middle school, every now and then the high school girls would let me come out to practice and take ground balls with them. They were all a foot taller and had a good 80-100 lbs on me, but I didn't care. That was the best thing about playing with the boys: you learn to never be intimidated by anyone.

Did you play any other sports in your growing-up years, other than softball?
I was such a gym/field rat growing up. You could throw me in a gym by myself with a few things to play with for hours upon hours and I would never get bored. Soccer, volleyball, basketball, track, you name it. Softball was always my favorite, though. Each sport was a fantastic release for another, so I love seeing kids involved in multiple sports. Shoutout to my parents for driving me straight from high school volleyball/basketball games to travel softball tournaments. I wouldn't be where I am today without them.

Why did you choose Texas A&M as your spot for school & playing ball?
I had been on a few visits prior to heading to College Station. Everything about Texas A&M felt right after setting foot on campus. I cancelled my upcoming visits because I knew where I wanted to play college ball. The atmosphere at A&M is such a welcoming environment where everyone is a giant family rooted in tradition and core values. As far as softball goes, I committed because I wanted to play for Coach Evans and her coaching staff. Coach Evans leads by example and builds true character through softball. I cannot thank her enough for helping me become the athlete, leader, and person I am today. It was an honor to play in front of the 12th man and represent such an incredible university. I wouldn't trade my experience wearing Texas A&M across my chest for anything in the entire world. Gig 'em!

You were in the middle of your collegiate career when A&M made the switch from the Big 12 to the SEC... as a player, what was the hardest part of that switch and what may have seemed like it would be difficult, but wasn't?
I'm so lucky to have played two years in the Big 12 and two years in the SEC. The most challenging part of our switch was definitely the competition. Fun fact: the last two years, SEC teams who did not make the conference tournament still made the NCAA tournament. That's how good the SEC is. No series is a given for any team. I think this year's SEC National Championship matchup can attest to the talent in our conference.

What was/is your favorite part of being an Aggie?
Favorite part of being an Aggie was hands down being a part of something so much bigger than myself. Texas A&M helped me strive to make a difference in the world and believe I could do so.

Is there one experience (playing in a certain game, against a certain opponent, for a certain coach, etc) that you wish you could have experienced during your time as a college athlete?
Obviously, the goal of every team is to reach the Women's College World Series, so I wish our team could have experienced a trip to OKC. To this day, I'm bitter my class never got to play at Rhoads Stadium (Alabama) or Tiger Park (LSU). From what I hear, those atmospheres are places you want to see as a collegiate softball player. Missed out on the Friday night SEC series opener under the lights at those two ballparks.

When did you start having thoughts about possibly playing ball post-college? With options as limited as they are, did it seem like an attainable goal or something you could just dream about?
Last summer, I caught a few Chicago Bandits games while my former stud of a teammate Mel Dumezich played for them. After that, I thought it would be really cool to continue playing after college, but had the ultimate goal of a trip to the WCWS as priority. My college teammates were my focus and I was willing to do anything for them. If an opportunity arose, then so be it, but playing post-college was never my focus. It's unfortunate that most athletes can no longer play because of the limited opportunities available in our league. Our ultimate goal in the NPF is to grow the league so we can have more women playing post-college. Becoming a professional in softball, or any sport for that matter, is an experience of a lifetime.

When you weren't selected in the NPF draft, what went through your mind? Did you think your career was now going to end after your final college game?
I hit on it earlier, but I wasn't focused on NPF at that moment in time, so I didn't sweat it when I wasn't drafted. I did a few tuck jumps when the Pennsylvania Rebellion drafted my roommate Nicole Morgan. I'm really adamant on seeing the big picture, so I wasn't worried about the end of my college career yet. If anything, the draft gave me a bit of motivation. I set my sights on being the best I could be for my team and it took me really far. I had tunnel vision for sure. Nothing and nobody was going to stop me from being great during my senior year. I was going out with a bang.

Other than the Aggie Softball Complex, what was/is your favorite stadium to play in?
My favorite place to play other than the Aggie Softball Complex was South Carolina. Their brand new stadium is gorgeous. Kentucky is a close second. Those schools have fantastic facilities that I was lucky to play in. However my favorite atmosphere is at McCombs in Austin. I loved being hated by everyone in the stadium. When you can feel the intensity stepping off the bus, you know that's a rivalry at its finest.

What was the biggest transition you had to make between college ball and pro ball?
The biggest transition has been the high level of talent. Pretty much everyone on the field has been an All-American, USA National Team member, Olympian, or any combination of the above. I learn something new every single day and have become even more of a student of a game than I was before playing professionally.

As a member of the Pride, you are now teammates with somebody that you idolized as a kid. What is it like to now be peers?
Cat Osterman and I go way back. She was my camp counselor at Texas Softball camp and we have kept in touch ever since. She takes care of me when I forget my glove on the first day of practice, (total rookie move yes I know). J No, but really, Cat has been an inspiration and role model to me for ten years. It's still surreal to play my position in the outfield and fist pump when she strikes someone out on the mound. It's incredible to play behind Cat after all these years. Even in my wildest dreams, I never would've pictured us wearing the same uniform. I'm one lucky kid, that's all I can say.

"Aggie S.D.R." was something you were a major part of. It commanded a lot of attention from the softball community. Tell what exactly S.D.R. stands for, how it got started, and how it benefited the Aggies this past season.
Aggie Softball S.D.R. was a little project brainstormed by the one and only Jami Lobpries and I. She and I are big about athlete involvement on social media. It began as an idea to give fans and community members inside access to Aggie Softball via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, all run entirely by the girls on our team. Through photos, quotes, and videos, we wanted to show the world our team's core values of selfless, disciplined, and relentless (S. D. R.). I loved every second of generating content with the help of Jami and my teammates. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. With a bit more free time on my hands, look for even more content on the SDR account next season!

Let's say you were stranded on a deserted island somewhere, but could take three things with you. What would you take? (Boats and phones are off-limits).
First thing I'm gonna have to go with is a fishing pole for entertainment & survival purposes. Fun fact: I keep fishing poles in the bed of my truck in case the opportunity ever arises! Second, a portable speaker to constantly play music. I'm a music guru for sure. Last, I'd pick my dogs. They're too cute to not bring along and I would miss them dearly!

 If you could sit down and have dinner with any three people from history, who would they be and why?
1. John Wooden. He built so many championship teams, so I would curiously want to pick his brain.
2. Mother Teresa. She was influential through her selfless service to the underprivileged. Just hearing her stories would be an honor.
3. Mickey Mantle (he also wore No. 7). No matter how old you get, you can always use a few more hitting tips

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