Softball: Buffalo Grove's Craig headed to Oklahoma State
Marc and Janice Craig knew their daughter was an outgoing young girl and with a bunch of energy.
So when she was around 5 years old, they had Angelina Craig playing in the Arlington Heights Youth Athletic Association softball program.
About the same time, they bought her a 'toy' called 'Batter Batter Baseball'.
From that point on, all Angelina would do is get better and better.
So much better, that today the Buffalo Grove student is headed to play softball for one of the premier collegiate programs in the nation.
Craig has committed to the Oklahoma State women's softball program, which has advanced to eight World Series and compiled 40-win seasons.
"When I first stepped onto Oklahoma State's campus I instantly fell in love." she said. " I was there for a camp that weekend and I was so excited. As camp went along, getting to know the coaching staff, meeting players, and learning more about the program itself I realized I could really see myself being there. The positive attitude where everyone treated each other like a family was something I was really searching for during my recruitment."
After just two days at the camp, Craig was in head coach Kenny Gajewksi's office learning more about the program with her family and she was made an offer to play in Stillwater.
"I was bouncing out of my shoes because it felt like home," she said. " I couldn't imagine going anywhere else after I left camp to come home to Chicago, from where I committed the next morning. Oklahoma State is unlike any other university I've seen and I can't wait to be a part of the Cowgirl family in less than a year."
It's been more than 12 years since Craig made her choice to give softball a try.
"My parents bought me this toy called 'Batter Batter Baseball.' I'd spend hours every day hitting the balls and chasing after them," Craig said about that mechanical toy that allows little children to take swings at a baseball. "At that moment I knew that I wanted to play softball."
When she walked into her first softball practice, she was ecstatic.
"Being on the ball field running around and learning the game was always the highlight of my day," she said. " It led me into falling in love with the game not too long after I started."
By the time she was 10 years old, she had watched her first college softball game.
"Seeing those girls on TV made me idolize so many of them," she said. " I was hoping one day I could be just like them playing on the big stage."
Now she will get that chance following an all-area freshman year playing on the Buffalo Grove varsity softball team and then two years of competing strictly in travel softball, playing for the Beverly Bandits and then last year with the Iowa Premier team.
She plans to play again for the Bison, and second-year coach Kaitlin Carpenter this spring.
As a freshman shortstop for BG, she settled into the No. 3 spot in the batting order and hit .514 with 37 hits including 7 doubles, 1 triple and 4 homers.
"It was a long decision (leaving high school softball) but in the end it was worth it," she said. "Playing for Iowa Premier has been a blessing. With COVID-19 taking a big toll on the recruiting process (not allowing coaches to watch live games) and my dream of playing Power 5 Division 1 softball, I knew I had to take the jump for my future."
Craig said the five-hour drive to Des Moines in the winter months was well worth the time to better her game.
"Being part of such an elite level program has really grown my game and IQ softball," added Craig, who helped her Iowa team to the Team 1 fall championship going 3-for-3 in the title game including a solo home run. "I've been to so many amazing states and met so many amazing athletes while playing for Iowa Premier.
"I was sad to not be able to play with my BG high school team because I've grown up with these girls. I'm very thrilled that I'll be able to play my senior season here at BG with such a very talented group of girls. We have a very stacked team this year and I'm so excited to be a part of it and see what we all can achieve."
One day, Craig would like to achieve another dream. She plans to study in the sports media field with hopes of being a broadcaster for sports channels such as ESPN.
"I've always had a love for all sports and I want to make a career out of something I love," she said. "I love all types of sports, and being in a field where I can spread the love is something I really want to do."
"Softball has always had a special place in my heart and always will. I've played with many outstanding athletes (former Hersey standout Katie Wingerter was Craig's idol and first hitting instructor) through the years and I'll never forget any of them.
"As this is my last year of club ball and high school I'm ready to soak it all in. It's gone by faster than I ever thought it would and I can't wait to make memories to last a lifetime. This is my final ride and I can't wait to make it the best one yet. This town and everyone who's helped me has given me so much support and I can't thank everyone who has been a part of this journey with me."