While all-American lists and major award winners are usually "who's who" lists from major programs and conferences, there are always a few players from mid-majors that will sneak in here and there. When a player comes from a mid-major - even a successful one - and is called one of the best in the game, you know she has some serious talent to behold. Shellie Robinson fits that description.
To be called a program legend before one's career is even over is impressive. For the moniker to be true at that same time is incredible.
I enjoy covering the game of softball and I love every aspect that comes with it. Each year, it seems, there is a player or even a few that just stand out; that make the game just that much more fun to watch. Shellie Robinson was and is one of those players.
A USC-Upstate four-year starter under Chris Hawkins, Robinson is the owner of eight Division 1-era program records including the Spartans' home runs, RBIs, runs, and batting average marks. A four-time first-team all-conference selection, Robinson was the conference's Player of the Year in her junior and senior seasons of 2014 and 2015.
An all-American in 2014, Robinson was drafted to the NPF to play for the Akron Racers.
Justin’s World: How did you get started playing softball, back at the very beginning? What about the game intrigued you, and when did you really know this was something you not only enjoyed, but were exceptional at?
Shellie Robinson: I actually started playing baseball. I played up until major league when I was told I should switch to softball. My brothers all played little league baseball as well, so that is how I really got into it. I have enjoyed it from the beginning and I realized I was pretty decent at it I guess around my middle school days.
Justin’s World: Talk to me about playing for Coach Hawkins at Upstate.
Shellie Robinson: Coach Hawkins was great. He took me in as one of his own. You can definitely tell he cares for his players and wants the best for us all. Him, Coach Pack, Coach Pauly, and Coach Roark are all the same. They are a great coaching staff and I’m honored to have played for them.
Justin’s World: Despite an illustrious, record-breaking career, it seemed you didn’t always get the recognition you deserved. Unfortunately, a lot of that probably has to do with the “mid-major bias”, as some have referred to it, of the national media. Give me your thoughts on that, as well as what kind of difficulties you have to have when something so small deprives you of well-deserved recognition.
Shellie Robinson: I never played for the recognition. It is very flattering when you do get recognized, but I was just playing to have fun and help my team win any way possible. Being a mid-major school could possibly be the reason for little recognition but no matter what, the last four years, being able to build friendships was what it was all about.
Justin’s World: Your team became known as sheer power hitters, “dropping bombs” left and right in nearly every game of the year. When teams are able to prepare for that as the #1 priority coming in, what do you have to do or change to keep being able to make solid contact and put the ball over the fence?
Shellie Robinson: You never want to go up to the plate thinking you’re going to hit a homerun. Whenever I found myself thinking about that, the result was not what I wanted. I think that our approach at the plate this year was to just make solid contact. Hit line drives and ground balls and make the defense work. We just happened to have a lot of success with the long ball.
Justin’s World: You ended up going to the Tuscaloosa regional three years in a row, I believe it was, and being eliminated all three times. Was it more difficult to face the same opponent and go through the same venue year after year, or was it easier because you got to know the players a bit better and the crowd became easier to handle?
Shellie Robinson: I believe that it was easier. We knew the environment and how to handle the crowd. Even though we never made it past regionals, it was still a good experience for us and we enjoyed the time there and were excited to make school history.
Justin’s World: When you found out you had been drafted to the NPF, tell me what thoughts went through your mind. How did that make you feel?
Shellie Robinson: It was such a surreal moment. I had always dreamed about playing professional softball and when I had found out that I had been drafted, I could barely contain my excitement. Being only the 3rd person in school history and 1st position player, it was a very fun moment, not just for me but for the whole team and my family.
Justin’s World: Moving from college to the pros, it’s always the case that you get to play with former rivals and against former teammates. Tell me what that’s like. What if Lexi Shubert, for example, enters the league in a couple of years and you step into the box against her?
Shellie Robinson: It’s a very humbling experience for sure. Facing pitchers like Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman is something I will remember for the rest of my life. In college, you have those few standouts on each team but in the pros, every player is a standout. It has been just an amazing experience so far. If Lexi gets drafted, it will be strange to play against her but I will be so happy for her if it happens.
Justin’s World: If you could change one thing about the game in its current state, what would it be and how would you change or fix it?
Shellie Robinson: I would hope to change the number of our fan base. We are growing no doubt, but I think if we were on TV more often that we could bring in more fans and have better publicity. I think in the near future we will have more people watching us and coming to more games.
Justin’s World: What are your plans for the future? Is playing in the NPF a long-term option? Is coaching an avenue you’d like to pursue? What about plans and hopes outside of softball?
Shellie Robinson: I would love to continue to play in the NPF. I have enjoyed the experience so far and could see myself playing long-term. I am definitely looking into a coaching career and will be pursuing that as much as possible. Outside of softball, I would love to travel the world some and eventually start a family.
Justin’s World: Who was the toughest opponent you faced, whether in college or already in the pros?
Shellie Robinson: I would say, in the pros, the toughest opponent so far has been Monica Abbott & the Bandits along with Cat Osterman & the Pride. Everyone in this league is a tough opponent, though.
Justin’s World: Let’s end with my signature question. Say you were stranded on a deserted island, but could take three things with you. Anything tangible goes, but no boats and no phones. What would you take?
Shellie Robinson: I would take a fire starter, my Bible, and a friend to keep me company.