With the recent addition of Canadian Danielle Lawrie, toward the end of last summer, international players are making a big impact in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF). But, one international player, hailing from Canada as well, has already made an impact on the professional level. Caitlin Lever who attended Georgia Tech University (2005-2007) was only the second Yellow Jacket to ever garner first team All-American honors. While at Tech, she was a three-time All ACC selection. She set new single-season school records in hits and on-base percentage.
In her rookie season with the Bandits (2007) she was fourth on the team in stolen bases and posted an on base percentage of .297. Lever was a member of the Canadian Olympic Team during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Lever has been juggling both the Canadian National Team and the Bandits with this summer being a full-time member of the Bandits. During her tenure with the Bandits, Lever has made an impact on the field and at bat during her four years. Lever is gearing up to make a bigger impact for her fifth season with the Bandits during her 2011 campaign.
The NPF asked Lever some questions about her career… Get to know Caitlin Lever…
Q: What has been your most memorable moment in the NPF?
Caitlin: My most memorable moment in the NPF would be when we went into I would say four or so overtimes with Rockford my rookie year. It was the first big Cat vs. Jennie cross-town face-off and we had an incredible crowd at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill. I still couldn't believe I could stand in the outfield and cheer for Jennie Finch as my pitcher. I remember the words feeling really surreal coming out of my mouth. It was the first time I had to hit against Cat as well, so I was clearly in awe of the talent surrounding me. I hit a line drive on a change up from Cat hard into the right field gap with runners in scoring position that would have been the win, but Kristen Zaleski came out of nowhere and supermaned to catch the ball. I remember Cat celebrating and running to the outfield to give Kristen a hug. It went from the highlight of my softball career, to the biggest heartbreak! Kristen was my hero after that and I absolutely loved the way she played. It was the moment I realized how unbelievably talented this league was even past the faces of these big powerhouse pitchers. Rockford ended up winning the game, but it was one of the most competitive softball games playing with and against some of my idols for one of the first times ever. I'll never forget it. My first impression of the league was a lasting one that's for sure!
Q: What advice would you give an NPF rookie?
Caitlin: I would tell a rookie to look to be successful as any true athlete should, but to have perspective that this league is very tough and sometimes requires a big adjustment after being accustomed to being so successful in your career. I hope all rookies are successful when they come into the league because it makes us all better, but I would encourage them to not be too hard on themselves and to really use those tools that they have gained through their college experiences to keep working to make those small adjustments that make a big difference at this level. I would say accept and embrace the challenge and set goals to get better every year and utilize what makes your game stand out from others.
Q: What is the best thing about the NPF fans?
Caitlin: The NPF fans are the greatest! They are loyal and want to see our league grow and that is exactly what we need. They are just as much a part of the foundation we are creating that will allow us to keep growing.
Q: What are your personal goals for the 2011 Season?
Caitlin: I personally had a rough season in 2010 and it is going to happen in a league of this caliber. In this league once we get going it is often five games in a row, without ample time that you are accustomed to work out kinks and practice it out. You have to be able to have a quick turn-around, both physically and mentally, and it was a huge lesson I got out of my experience. Up until that point I had improved every year in the league, and my college career went the same way, so I responded poorly when I fell backwards. In the game of softball there leaves little time for frustration. Sometimes your greatest goals don't have a stat tagged to it, so my main goals are to take what I learned from the mental side of the game and apply it to 2011. I look forward to being consistently in Chicago for the summer to play in the best league in the world!
Q: Which athletes or coaches were you mentors or role models growing up?
Caitlin: Cammi Granato and Hayley Wickenheiser were huge role models of mine growing up. I actually had done all my visits and was about to make my verbal commitment to college for ice hockey before I made the last minute change to softball. Hockey was my primary sport growing up and both these ladies were very inspirational to me. My high school coach Gerry Gentner was the amazing man that allowed me to even have a chance to play college ball, so I am forever grateful for the footprint he left on my life.
Q: Which NPF Player are you looking forward to playing against in 2011?
Caitlin: I am looking forward to playing against Megan Willis. I am just so proud of the growth that I have seen in her both on and off the field since her rookie year. She impresses me every day and I now call her "Miken" Willis because as we always knew she was a very talented catcher, she has now proved herself to be a big threat at the plate. With the addition of all her crazy antics, I think she is a very exciting player to watch for the fans.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
Caitlin: My favorite movie would have to be a toss-up between Anchorman or Primal Fear (opposite extremes I know)
Q: What was your favorite subject in school?
Caitlin: My favorite subject in school was math (closet nerd shhh)
Q: How pumped are you about playing in a brand new stadium in 2011 that the Bandits can call their own?
Caitlin: I can't even express how excited I am. Now that I have set up shop in Chicago I am just so excited that we will have a field of our own. I think this will be huge, not only for the players, but to bring in more fans as well. I think that it will also provide a very exciting venue for some of the younger programs to be able to come through and play tournaments, so that we can give back to the community and at the same time expose who we are. I can't wait to play on our very own field!
Q: What was your experience like being on the Back to School Tour this fall?
Caitlin: I know that this sentence is probably thrown out freely, but I truly believe it was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in my life. Just a group of amazing women, some of which I have never had the chance to play with nor get to know yet, but have respected immensely in the league. Everybody was there for the same reason to fight to bring awareness to these college programs and fans about what exactly the NPF is and that it can be an option in their future. The college programs were incredible and were so great accommodating us and the girls were very competitive. I have never laughed so hard in my life from all of the personality and entertainment around. There was never a dull moment with that group of girls and I will always cherish the opportunity I was given to do it. We came there as competitors and left as friends. The future of collegiate softball and the NPF looks bright! I'm just honored to be a part of it!