Big 12 Campus Correspondent
While most college seniors frantically put together a resume during their final few semesters in school, Kansas senior Brittany Hile is busy adding to hers.
The Jayhawk backstop will soon be able to put under the heading 'professional experience', softball player for the Diamonds of the National Pro Fastpitch softball league. Hile was selected by the Orlando franchise as the 15th overall pick in the SPF Draft this past March.
"I had known about the pro league but it was really nothing I had dreamed about doing before," Hile said.
"That all changed when the opportunity presented itself, because I got really excited and realized that this should be everybody's dream who plays this sport."
For Hile, the comfort of knowing she will be blocking more balls and swinging at more pitches goes a long way as she winds down her successful collegiate career.
"A lot of players go through college and during their senior season they realize, 'wow this is it... this is the end'," she said. "Now, for me, I have a summer of pro-ball, which is just an unbelievable opportunity."
While Hile's professional career won't begin until early June, she knows she still has an important role to play in the remainder of Kansas' season.
"It is my senior year and I am the catcher, so I have to step up when times get hard and keep the team together," she said. "We have a few games left and it is all about finishing strong."
While Hile looks to close out her senior campaign on a high note, she is pleased with some of the progress her team has made this season, including a program best 26-3 start.
"We did get off to a really hot start to begin the year," she said. "I could not think of a better group of girls to play with during my senior season."
Even though the Olathe, Kan.-native wants to end her Crimson and Blue career on a positive note, she has already put her stamp on the Jayhawk softball program. During her freshman season she burst onto the scene and saw action in all 56 games the Jayhawks played.
"It was tough at first because college is a whole different game," she said. "But I just had the mentality that I needed to go in, not think of myself as a freshman and just kind of take on that role."
That role was something Hile soon became accustomed to, making 88 starts behind the plate in her sophomore and junior seasons, while amassing 50 hits, 33 RBI and seven home runs during that same time span. But it isn't just her bat that the catcher is known for. The right-handed throwing backstop takes pride in her role behind the plate. During her junior season, Hile sent 22 runners who dared to snatch a base on her watch back to their respective dugouts.
"I love throwing runners out," she said. "They try to catch you off guard and get a spark going for their team by stealing and you just shut it down by throwing them out. As a result our team gets a boost."
Another aspect of catching that Hile relishes is her constant impact on the game she's playing in.
"I like being involved in every pitch of every inning," the 5-9 backstop said. "I know that means I do not have any time to really take a pitch off."
"I think she is a leader on this team," KU softball head coach Megan Smith said. "Her position demands that of her, but I think Brittany likes to be in that role anyway. With that said, she has really emerged as a leader for our young players this fall."
While Hile often leads by her actions on the field, she is also setting a stellar example for the underclassmen on her team in the classroom.
The business major was named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team following her junior season and the Academic All-Big 12 Second Team after her sophomore year.
"It is an honor because it is definitely not easy to accomplish," she said. "We are on the road all the time in the spring and it so easy to get behind. I think after a couple years at school, you learn to how to balance everything whether that means studying on the plane or at home."
That balance is something this student-athlete says she has had to learn at all times of the day and night.
"It takes a lot of hard work outside of all the work you are putting into your sport," Hile said. "There are times where you have to get up early in the morning to study for a test or stay up late, so I think you really have to use all time you have wisely because your day is just full of sports and school."
"She works hard and makes sure she is giving all she has academically," Coach Smith said. "By doing that, she really sets a good example for our younger players who come in and struggle a little bit. She can show them how to work hard and be persistent and that you can be successful in both your sport and your school work."
While Hile's schedule may be full this spring with books and bats, it will soon become more focused this summer as she begins her new career as a professional softball player.
"It is a huge honor (to be drafted) and it is definitely a byproduct of her hard work," Coach Smith said. "She has always been an unbelievable catcher and has had the best arm in the country; I think that will go a long way as she continues her career as a pro."
"I have the opportunity to play with some of the greats of the game," the soon-to-be-college graduate said. "I could not be happier."
If Hile's past is any indication of her future, then someday soon another college senior may be saying the very same thing about playing next to the greats of the game, which include Brittany Hile.