The 2014 National Player of the Year, Lacey Waldrop enjoyed a stellar playing career at Florida State. She dominated in the circle for the Seminoles en route to standing atop the podium with the program’s all-time wins record at the close of her collegiate playing career.
When Waldrop was in the circle, the ‘Noles knew their chances of winning were pretty high, as the right-hander finished her career in the top three in program history in pitching appearances and strikeouts, in addition to her 109 career victories.
After a playing career that left an indelible mark on the Florida State record books, Waldrop pitched professionally for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch league for four years, collecting fifteen wins and nearly 150 strikeouts during her professional career, before retiring prior to the 2019 season.
Now the lead Softball Instructor for Softball Rebellion, after a few years of coaching at the Division I level, Waldrop recently stopped by to chat about her career at some of the game’s highest levels; her current endeavors to help grow the game; and her thoughts on the game today.
Waldrop on the beginnings of her softball career… I still have a vivid memory of my parents tossing to me in our front yard. I had a black wooden bat that I swung with at the time. I guess my playing days started there, and then my parents decided to sign me up for slow-pitch softball. After one year, I transitioned into fastpitch, and I was nervous to start playing for a new team. I actually pretended to be taking a nap so that I would hopefully not have to go to the first practice, but that didn’t work, thankfully! When I was in the sixth or seventh grade, I started to really love pitching, so around that time is when I started to develop the dream of continuing to play in college.
On choosing Florida State… I originally wanted to be a marine biologist, so I put Florida State on my list because they had a program where you could work at their marine bay lab in the summer. That sparked my interest initially, and when [Coach Alameda] started recruiting me, I went on a visit and absolutely fell in love with the school. I had that warm fuzzy feeling that I was in the right place, and I think that had a lot to do with how [Coach Alameda] carries herself and how she treated my family and I. To this day, I know I couldn’t have played for a more perfect coaching staff.
On being named National Player of the Year… Well first, I remember being amazed that I even made the top three because our shortstop, Maddie O’Brien, was also a top ten finalist that year. I think she hit 25 home runs with a .400+ batting average and also was an exceptional shortstop, so to me, that’s more valuable than a pitcher because she was getting it done on both sides of the field. Also, I firmly believe that there should be a Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year named in the coming years. Anyways, when I found out I made the top three, I called my mom crying because I was so happy. When I was actually announced as the Player of the Year, I really couldn’t believe it, and in all the hustle and bustle, I forgot to thank my teammates, which I felt terrible about! To me, it was so much more amazing that we were in OKC for the first time in ten years because that was what I had ALWAYS dreamed of! It definitely felt like all of my hard work and passion I have for the game had paid off.
On playing professionally, her experiences in the NPF, and retiring from the circle… After the junior year I had, I realized that I could continue to play after college, and I started to look forward to the opportunity, whether it was in the NPF or with Team USA. This is another
crazy story, but I actually went to a Chicago Bandits game when I was in eighth grade, so it is so cool to me that I ended up playing for the same team that I watched so many years before.
I have so many great memories from playing in the NPF and specifically playing for the Bandits. I’m not sure if I would have loved it as much if I would have played for another team. I say that because playing in Chicago was wonderful due to the fan base, my teammates, and the atmosphere in Rosemont. I’m sure I would have enjoyed playing the game at the next level, no matter what team, but the Bandits really put a lot of effort and time into fielding a great team year in and year out. The fact that we were always competitive made it even more fulfilling.
That being said, I want nothing but the best for the NPF and pro fastpitch in general, but I know there are things that need to be improved and changed. I also understand that teams and the league need to generate more revenue in order for the playing conditions, salaries, and pretty much anything to improve, and right now it isn’t happening.
Players are giving everything they have to play the game that they love, sometimes putting themselves in a financial hole to do so, and I think it’s about time that they got a chance to continue to play softball or soccer or whatever sport it is for as long as they’re healthy and valuable to a team. I’m hopeful that the right group of people will get together and work to create a successful platform for women’s sports, but I think right now, we’re at the point where we push for it and talk about it, but no one has answers on how to generate the same revenue that college softball is generating. More than anything, I wish more people would give women’s professional sports a chance. There is still so much hatred and negativity that is spread through social media regarding women’s athletics and I can’t stand it!
I digress from my soap box back to your question. The main reason I decided to retire was the difficulty of coaching and recruiting in the summers while playing. It’s interesting now that I’m no longer coaching and could have potentially played this season. In the fall, my plan was to play for the Canadian Wild, as they were supposed to be based out of Durham, NC this summer, and I was set on playing for them if it would have worked out. However, a few months before the NPF season, it was announced that the WILD would be located in Southern Illinois. That was about that time that I realized I would be retiring. I have a feeling that I haven’t hung up my cleats for good. Whether it’s internationally or possibly back in the NPF, I could see myself trying to play again in the future.
On entering the collegiate coaching world… Originally, I never intended to go into coaching. As I mentioned before, I wanted to be a marine biologist, but while I was in college, I realized that I wanted to stay involved in sports and in softball in some way. When I changed my major from Biology to Editing, Writing, and Media, my aspirations were to become a color commentator for softball and baseball. I actually interned for Fox Sports South my first year out of college and provided the color commentary for a few games at FSU, and I loved it! It was really an interesting turn of events that led me to become a Graduate Assistant at Oklahoma and eventually a pitching coach. So, I really didn’t intend to go into coaching initially, but what drew me in was the ability to impact young women in a crucial time of their lives. My favorite part of coaching will always be the relationships that I am able to develop with the players.
On how Florida State prepared her to become a coach… I think who I played for impacted me and prepared me to coach more than the level I played at. I was blessed with coaches (Coach Alameda, Coach Snider, and Coach Wilson) that dedicate themselves to teaching the game and developing their players. There are a lot of coaches out there who seem more concerned with winning and losing than they are with the development, so I feel lucky to have played for a program that transforms their athletes in all aspects of life.
Outside of that, it was always nice to be able to share my personal experiences with the pitchers I worked with. I think it makes them more comfortable to show their vulnerabilities in times of struggle. It’s easier to relate to someone and provide them guidance when you have gone through similar situations.
On SoftballRebellion… Currently I give lessons, write articles, and create digital content for Softball / Baseball Rebellion. Our new Softball Rebellion website – SoftballRebellion.com – provides an educational experience for every softball player out there. We not only want to provide softball specific drills and instruction, but we also want to share mental game preparation, nutrition, and strength and conditioning information. There are so many players and parents who are misled or not equipped with the information they need when it comes to recruiting and development, and we want to help provide them the best information possible.
Right now, Baseball Rebellion creates a huge assortment of online baseball and softball content for everything mentioned above. We try to provide them with the instruction, tools, and resources needed to increase their abilities. We want to create the same system for softball specific content. We will create all of our articles, drills, and content specifically for softball players and families in hopes of making the development process easier for young women.
The hitting component at Softball and Baseball Rebellion is a huge factor in the business. We have a set system that is proven to increase a hitter’s rotational power which leads to higher exit velocity, more distance, and an efficient and healthy way to swing. We focus more on implementing the correct body movements to create power rather than teaching players the typical swing mechanics that you would learn at most facilities. We also utilize Hittrax and Rapsodo technology in every cage, which provides each hitter with their exit velocity, launch angle, distance, play outcome, and a few other metrics. This gives us the ability to track each swing and have data to compare and see what type of results every player is generating. There’s a huge emphasis on real results, which has translated very well into games. It’s easy for players and parents to see how much they are improving throughout their sessions, which takes the guessing out of the process. There are Softball/ Baseball Rebellion trained hitters in collegiate programs all over the country, and we’re always looking to improve our process and continuously create better hitters.
On the pitching side, I am utilizing high-speed cameras and Rapsodo to develop a better understanding of the proper way to teach the pitching motion and develop movement pitches. Utilizing the Rapsodo has also allowed me to have a better measuring stick for my older lessons. Many of them want to pitch at the collegiate level, so after analyzing their original Rapsodo Bullpen Report, I develop a plan to improve their pitches and help them decide which pitches would be best to add to their repertoire. For example, if a pitcher has what seems to be too large of a gap between her fastball and her change-up, we may start to develop an off-speed pitch that sits somewhere in-between the two. With movement pitches like the drop, rise, and curve, the Rapsodo allows our pitchers to truly understand the type of spin they’re getting and how to make improvements in their pitch. The technology we have at the facility sets us apart and allows for a more results-based training system.
On her plans for the future and whether a return to the circle could happen… Right now, I am solely focused on developing to the pitchers I work with, learning as much as I can about different aspects of pitching and growing Softball Rebellion. I think we can build something special that can help thousands of young women’s dreams come to fruition, and that’s what’s important to me. I loved my time coaching at the collegiate level, and I could certainly see myself going back in the future, but right now, I think I am exactly where God intended me to be.
As far as playing, I could certainly see myself pitching again. There is so much already that I have learned in the past few months that would help me improve. It’s hard to not want to put that to the test.
On what she hopes to leave as her legacy in the game… I hope I’m remembered as a joyful and kind teammate and coach that always played and taught the game passionately. Softball has brought me so many smiles throughout the years, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t brought me many tears as well. I want to be remembered as someone who at times played emotionally because I think that’s okay. We often tell young players to not waiver in times of struggle and frustration, but I think sometimes we ask people to suppress too much of what makes them and our sport special. If you can’t allow yourself to feel the heartbreak of losing a big game, or giving up the game winning hit, I don’t know if you can truly experience the absolute joy of the small and big wins. I think it’s so important to let players be themselves. Coaching players and giving them tough love is important, but if you try so hard to make them into someone they’re not, you’re both losing. That being said, I also hope I can be remembered as someone who helped young women develop a sense of who they are and why they should be confident in themselves.