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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lacey Waldrop Steps Into Justin's World, Part 2

After a stellar collegiate career that saw her take home the 2014 National Player of the Year trophy, as well as three all-American awards, Lacey Waldrop had a bit of a "down year" in 2015. Of course, when a 28-7 record, a 1.52 ERA, and 232 strikeouts is a "down year", something's going pretty well.

Photo: Don Martukovich
I had Waldrop as the top pitcher available on my Big Board in 2015; when draft time came around, she was the first pitcher taken, at #3 overall by the Chicago Bandits. She followed the USSSA Pride-drafted duo of Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley.

The Bandits added her to a pitching staff that included perennial stud Monica Abbott; Sara Moulton; Michelle Gascoigne; Kirsten Verdun; and others.

Though her stats don't necessarily give the whole picture - 3.42 ERA, 3-5 record, 38 strikeouts, .269 batting average against - she enjoyed a successful first season in the NPF league and helped lead the Bandits to the league championship.

She figures to be an even more integral part of the Bandits' plans in 2016. In Part 2 of my interview with Lacey, she talks about several aspects of being drafted, playing for the Bandits, and the NPF.

Justin’s World: What would you call your favorite moment from your career thus-far?
Lacey Waldrop: My favorite moment was definitely Courtney Senas’ walk-off homerun against Michigan in game 3 of the super regionals in 2014. There are so many memories from my time at FSU that I will cherish, but I can’t think of another time that was so epic, for lack of better wording, although it was truly that type of moment. After losing so badly in game one of the series, I think everyone started to really doubt us, but as a team, we all knew that we could come out and win those next 2 games. After the first loss, you could truly look into every single person’s eyes and realize that we weren’t scared and we were ready to take care of business. I’m pretty sure our third baseman, Briana Hamilton, even told Michele Smith and Pam Ward to be ready for a doubleheader the next day! It was pretty amazing to see that kind of confidence in everyone around you. I also couldn’t think of a more deserving and gracious person than Courtney, so the fact that she was the one to hit the walk-off made it even more special. There’s no other person I can think of who works as hard or gave more to the team that year so that she would be prepared for that moment. I’ve watched the video multiple times and it still gives me chills just thinking about it.

Justin’s World: Tell me how you first heard about the NPF and determined that playing in the league was something you wanted to do.
Lacey Waldrop: I have actually known about the NPF since I was a little kid; my parents got me tickets to go see an NPF game for Christmas one year when I was in middle school. We had planned to go up and see a Racers game, but we actually ended up visiting friends in Chicago and saw a Bandits game instead. It’s kind of crazy to think that 8 or 9 years down the road, I’d be playing for the same team! During my junior year is when I really started to think about playing in the NPF, I had always dreamt of continuing to play softball after college, but after I saw some players that I had met before or played against in college go into the league, it made me want to play even more.

Justin’s World: Take me through your thought processes on draft night, leading up to the selections and then once you were chosen.
Lacey Waldrop: On draft night, we were actually playing a home game against FAMU [Florida A&M] at the exact time of the draft, so I didn’t get a chance to watch or even know when I was chosen. After the game, our Media SID got on the intercom and made an announcement that Maddie and I were both drafted, so that was a pretty cool moment. Our teammates cheered and clapped, and there were plenty of hugs to go around, so getting a win and being drafted on the same night was a great experience. 

Justin’s World: What were some of the biggest changes and adaptions you had to make from pitching in college to pitching in the pro league? Was there something of a culture shock?
Lacey Waldrop: I think part of the start of my NPF season was just rebuilding my confidence again after coming off of a senior season that wasn’t so stellar. I had to learn to trust myself and my pitches again and just reestablish attacking the strike zone. The biggest overall change was making sure that I always hit my spots. In college, I could rely more on my movement, and even some pitches that were more middle still weren’t hit very hard. In the NPF, that doesn’t happen. Whether your ball moves or not, if you throw it over the heart of the plate, it’s going to be hit hard, so in my bullpens, I started to really focus in on hitting my spots even more than usual.

Justin’s World: Give me your thoughts on the NPF’s progress and advancement at this point in time, and how you think they can continue that in the future.
Lacey Waldrop: Seeing the league grow has been great! With the newest addition of the Scrap Yard Dawgs, it’s just so nice to see softball spreading to big cities where we will hopefully get a larger fan base. When we play at home in Rosemont, oftentimes we have a sell-out crowd, so seeing our fans really makes me hopeful that the fan base for the NPF as a whole will grow. As we keep adding more and more teams, it’s giving so many collegiate softball players the chance to chase their dreams and continue playing the game they love, so I couldn’t be happier about that. In order to thrive, we definitely need to keep getting the word out about the NPF because there are still so few people who know about our league. Most people don’t even realize that professional softball is an option for women after playing in college. The more connections we make as players and the more the league continues to grow, I’m hopeful that the NPF will start to become popular because there are so many people who love the game of softball.

Justin’s World: Do you see playing in the NPF as a long-term opportunity for you, or something that you are interested in doing long-term?
Lacey Waldrop: I would love to play in the NPF as long as possible! This past summer with the Bandits was probably my favorite summer I’ve had in years. There was never a dull moment, and I made a lot of great friends in the process. As far as playing, I want to keep competing as long as possible, and I don’t think I’ll ever lose the desire to do so. I’ve also considered playing professionally overseas in the future, so the NPF gives players an amazing opportunity to do both since we play in the summer.

Justin’s World: What are your future plans? Working for FOX Sports, I would assume broadcasting is on the list somewhere? What about coaching – is that something you’d like to pursue at some point?
Lacey Waldrop: Right now, I’m interning in media production for FOX Sports Southeast, and I’m really enjoying it! I mostly cut and edit videos for the show ACC All-Access, and it’s been a fun process getting to learn the system we use and learn how to edit videos as a whole, so this would be something I would definitely consider continuing in the future. But I have always wanted to go into broadcasting. Technically what I’m doing now is in the realm of broadcasting, but eventually I’d love to be on camera either as an analyst or color commentator for softball and baseball. I’ve always looked up to Jessica Mendoza and all she’s done for our sport because she has really set the bar high. She’s been in the booth for the MLB playoffs and also been on Baseball Tonight, so if all my dreams come true, that’s exactly what I want to be doing. Coaching is another route that I’ve really considered, and would still love to get the opportunity to do so. I’ve been giving pitching lessons for about 3 years now and I really enjoy it, but I don’t think there’s anything quite like the intensity and atmosphere of coaching in college. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by loving, passionate and extremely intelligent coaches who taught us more about softball than I ever thought possible. Being surrounded by them day in and day out made my thirst to get better even stronger, and I realized how much fun it would be to help develop players in the same way that our coaches at FSU helped us. Not only did I learn to love the small details of the game, but I also got such a better grasp on how important the mental game of softball is in order to be successful. After struggling with confidence in pitching, thinking I had figured it out, and then struggling again I realize how important it is to have compassionate and caring people in your corner trying to help you overcome whatever obstacle you may be facing, so I would love to return the favor and be able to make even half as much impact on future players lives as Coach Alameda, Wilson and Snider did on mine.

Justin’s World: And finally, my favorite question. Say you were on a deserted island for an undetermined period of time, but could take three things with you. Boats and phones are off-limits; what would you take?
Lacey Waldrop: 
1. A Machete- so that I could cut down food or wood or whatever is on the island that may help me survive
2. Some kind of bucket or pan that I could collect and boil water in to drink (I’ll rub sticks together to make a fire)
3. A giant journal so that I could write down all of the things I did to survive and publish a book about it all once I got off the island (I’ll use mud as a writing utensil!) 

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