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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Lauren Chamberlain Steps Into Justin's World, Part 2

In her first two seasons in a Sooner uniform, Lauren Chamberlain knocked sixty home runs over the fence, entering the picture as a potential record-breaker as only a sophomore. Though it took to the middle of her senior season to officially break the record and set her own mark, she became one of the most polarizing figures in the sport - and for all the right reasons.

Photo: Don Martukovich
One of the most refreshing of Chamberlain's qualities is that her talent has not gone to her head - in this interview, you'll get her thoughts on and you'll see just how greatly she takes the responsibility of serving as a role model for young softballers.

Other topics we discussed in this second and final part of our extended-length interview:
  • Her mindset as she got closer and closer to the all-time home run record
  • Handling the pressure of such a monumental record chase
  • Suiting up and taking the field for Team USA
  • Her long-term plans for playing in the NPF
  • and MORE


Justin’s World: The home run chase… as you closed in on the magical number 90, talk to me about the pressure you were feeling and what all you had to do to keep that in check and just play your game as usual when you were in the box.
Lauren Chamberlain: I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. There were a lot of at bats that I felt I took away from myself, because I was letting outside factors affect my game. Throughout college, I would go in weekly to see a counselor that helped with all areas of life. Kaycee and Cody, my two counselors, were extremely beneficial. Once I learned that the chase, the attention, the cameras, etc. had nothing to do with my ability to hit the ball or not, I really started to settle in. 

Justin’s World: Tell me about the emotions you felt, even as early as rounding the base paths, when you hit #90, then #91.
Chamberlain: Everyone talks about 91, but 90 was a good one for me. It was a huge weight off my back to know that I got to the record. I met the challenge. I hadn’t passed it yet, but knowing that I got there took a lot of pressure off of me. When I hit it, I didn’t realize at first because I was just trying to get my team back in the game against Baylor. My teammates really pumped me up when I was coming home, and the feelings started to set in.

91 was a lot of emotions into one home run. It really signified the emotional and mental struggles that I had overcome during the chase. It was sort of a victory for a lot of people that helped me along the way. My teammates, that were so selfless and supportive during my career, had to deal with my ups and downs throughout the season and I know they let out a big exhale with me. My family that consistently reminded me how much they loved me regardless of what happened. My hitting coach Tripp Mackay, for the countless hours spent helping me with my swing and speaking life into me. There were a lot of important people sharing that moment with me so it will be tough to beat that feeling.

Justin’s World: Team USA… you wore the red, white, and blue for several seasons. Even without the Olympics in the equation, tell me about the opportunity to represent your country and what it meant to you when you stepped out on the field in those colors.
Chamberlain: My dad and my grandpa were both in the Navy, so to get to represent the United States of America in any way is an honor for me. To do it playing the sport I love is hard to beat. I cherish those moments that I got to listen to the National Anthem with USA across my chest. It was a great experience taking the field with awesome athletes wearing those colors.
Justin’s World: The softball-in-the-Olympics discussion has reached new heights recently, thanks to the Japanese backing of its re-entry onto the Olympic roster. Were softball to be added back as an Olympic sport, what do you think that would mean for our game as a whole? 
Chamberlain: It would mean everything. My dream as a little girl was to play in the Olympics. With it being out, one of my dreams was cut. If it is to get back in, that means that a dream can be reinstated for a lot of girls that had to put it out of their head. If I get the chance to participate or not, I hope with everything in me that someone who comes behind me gets that chance.

Justin’s World: Moving to the NPF, when you were drafted and officially found out you would be playing in the NPF, for the USSSA Pride, with several of your OU teammates as well as an old friend in Amber Freeman, did that make your transition to ‘professional athlete’ a bit easier, having those familiar faces around and hitting behind you, playing next to you, etc?
Chamberlain: Absolutely. It is always important to have solid people around you during a major transition. It is nice to have Shelby with me, because she knows me and I know her. If one of us is struggling, we know what to say and how to help. We’ve been through a lot in our careers together so it really is helpful to have someone familiar. Amber and I have been playing against each other for so long, with the exception of the USA team. Its nice to finally suit up alongside some old friends and watch each other succeed while on the same team.

Justin’s World: Tell me what it means to you to know the humongous numbers of girls and young players that would name you as their role model on the field. How do you live up to that moniker? It’s an important role.
Chamberlain: It means a lot to me. It keeps me motivated and reminds me why I play the game. I accept the role and don’t shy away from it. I’ve been blessed in so many ways by this game, so I gladly take on that responsibility. I try to live my life and play the game the right way, so it is rewarding to hear that someone wants to emulate that. You can’t be anybody other than yourself and not everyone will like you, so its important to me to encourage those that like what they see and appreciate the way I do things.

Justin’s World: Having signed a three-year contract, playing in the NPF is obviously something you see yourself doing long-term. Outside of that, what are your plans for the future? Is coaching, either collegiately or privately, in the cards?
Chamberlain: I plan on playing pro as long as my body will let me. I will give lessons, clinics, camps, etc. I want to develop an experience that young players can be a part of sometime soon. It will encompass both physical and mental training. I do not know about coaching, but I am open for everything. I’m excited for what the future holds.

Justin’s World: Aaaand my favorite question of all-time, with which we’ll end things: Say you were stranded on a deserted island, but could take three things with you. No boats, no phones, but anything else tangible goes. What would you take?
Chamberlain: I would take tanning lotion, a beer and some good music. With my schedule, are you kidding? Getting stranded on a deserted island sounds amazing.

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