Bandits' Williams contemplating moving on
Her contemporaries are disappearing fast.
Tammy Williams became a professional softball player in 2009. The shortstop from Northwestern was taken in the second round of the National Pro Fastpitch draft by the Chicago Bandits.
"I was doing the math recently; only five people who were in the league when I started are still in it," Williams said. "There's been a lot of turnover, and I'm one of the older players at age 28."
Some players leave the NPF to start families. Most leave because an NPF salary is difficult to live on for long.
Williams knows she'd be more stable and secure if she used her Northwestern degree and her MBA from DePaul to become the financial advisor she studied to be.
And she has the perfect out. Williams, the best shortstop in the business, can go out on top. She led the Bandits to the NPF championship earlier this month. It's her second championship with the Bandits, who are based in Rosemont and have won three titles since 2008.
Williams is contemplating retirement. But she's also kicking the can down the road.
"Softball has been such a huge part of my life and a huge part of who I am," Williams said. "So much of my time has gone into this sport and my teams, and softball has given me so many opportunities. I love it.
"But part of me thinks it's time to transition to the next part of my life. I don't know. (Chicago Bandits owner) Bill (Sokolis) told me to take until next season to figure it out. I'm going to see how it goes being totally away from it for a while, and then I'll see."
Williams has had an enviable situation over the last six years with the Bandits, one that won't be easy to give up.
She spent her entire career here, and says that playing professional softball in the same market where she played college softball was a dream. In the off-seasons, she had the perfect set-up, serving as an assistant softball coach at DePaul, one of the best college programs in the country.
"(DePaul softball coach) Eugene Lenti is one of my favorite people in the world," Williams said. "He's one of the most genuine people I've ever met and I learned a ton about life and softball from him."
Williams' learning curve has been steep ever since she arrived in the Chicago market.
Remarkably, the best shortstop in softball right now didn't grow up playing shortstop. Williams was a pitcher when she came to Northwestern. She was one of the best in her home state of Missouri.
But the coaches at Northwestern liked her athleticism and thought she could be more effective as a shortstop. They were right.
Williams was the 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and she was the league player of the year in 2008 and 2009.
With the Bandits, Williams also made an immediate impact. She was the 2009 rookie and defensive player of the year in the NPF.
"She just plays the game with such excitement," Sokolis said. "She's always giving fans something to talk about. This season, I remember this amazing play she made. She helped us make a triple play with this incredible diving catch over third base.
"Tammy also gives us so much leadership. She's like the Mother Hen on our team with our younger players. She would be a difficult player to replace. I don't even want to think about it."
Neither does Williams. At least not quite yet. She wants to bask a little longer in the Bandits' championship run, which will yield her another blingy ring.
"I'm so lucky that my job right now is to go out and play softball," Williams said. "I know that eventually that will need to change, but right now, it's hard to imagine my life without that."
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