Last weekend, while dozens of friends and teammates walked down the hill and crept closer to life after college, Kansas University softball senior Brittany Hile calmly clapped and grinned. Hers wasn’t exactly the face of a fellow graduate freaking out over the future.
There’s a reason for that.
In March, Hile, a two-year starter at catcher for KU, was drafted by the National Professional Fastpitch Diamonds, one of four squads that make up the NPF pro league.
Yep, pro softball does exist, and, just like that, Hile, who planned to continue her job in seasonal sales at The Buckle this summer, was cleaning up her cleats and packing her bags for Orlando.
She and her mom will hit the road later this week, and the former Blue Valley West High standout will begin a life she never imagined possible.
“A couple weeks before I got word that I was going to play professionally, the stress was starting to sneak in,” Hile said. “I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do? I have to find a job, I have to market myself.’ And then this showed up, and it took a lot of weight off of my shoulders. I still have more time, and hopefully this will lead to something.”
In many ways, it already has. When Hile heard her named called as the 15th pick of the 2011 NPF Senior Draft on March 18, she became the second Jayhawk ever to be drafted to play pro softball. Serena Settlemier, the 2006 Big 12 Player of the Year, was the other. Talk about good company.
“Even though I didn’t know her personally, I think this kind of ties us together,” Hile said. “And hopefully we’ll make it so more and more Jayhawks get drafted in the future.”
For nine weeks this summer, Hile will do nothing but play softball. There will be no classes, tutoring sessions, family obligations or untimely distractions. Just a ball, a bat and other highly skilled players being paid for their abilities.
NPF contracts won’t make anyone think of Alex Rodriguez, but, the way Hile sees it, making even just a penny to play is the equivalent of striking it rich.
“It’s pretty neat to know that you’re gonna make money, and all you have to do is softball,” said Hile of the salary that’s on par with any good-paying job. “It’s literally like your job.”
Growing up, Hile spent countless hours playing ball in the park with her parents and older brother.
“I was always around it,” she said. “Even before I started playing.”
Unlike the vast majority of college seniors in her sport, Hile will remain connected to the game beyond KU. It was an opportunity she said yes to immediately, and one she’s looking forward to immensely.
“Definitely,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want to continue playing after college and call yourself a professional athlete?”