Athleticism, willingness leads to versatility for Maddie Reese


Stephen Koenigsfeld/Iowa State Daily

Junior infielder Maddie Reese fields a fair ball from third base in a match against South Dakota on April 22.

Kevin Horner

Catcher, third base, left field, second base. To the uninformed listener, those positions may appear to be the start of a resume for an entire softball team.

However, to the members of the ISU softball team, those four separately allocated spots on the field all represent one thing: the positions that Maddie Reese plays.

Reese, a native of Pittsford, N.Y., transferred to Iowa State from Arkansas to begin her sophomore year and immediately jumped into various roles on the Cyclones’ depth chart.

“My sophomore year I was primarily an infielder,” Reese said. “But I transformed into a catcher and played a little bit of outfield. So, I kind of moved around everywhere.”

Following her sophomore year, Reese split time mostly between third base and left field before finally coming full circle to her favorite and most familiar position, second base.

“My favorite position is second base,” Reese said. “That’s the position I’ve played since I was five or six years old, so it’s fun to finally be back there this year.”

In high school, Reese had essentially only utilized her skills in the infield. Near the end of the summer following her senior year, however, she began to fine-tune her outfield skills in an attempt to boost her versatility.

Little did she know, her versatility would be extended to entire new level when she would hit the practice field at Cyclone Sports Complex in the fall of 2012.

Considering the standpoint that most focused athletes assume in any sport, which is to fix all of his or her attention on a specific position, it was unusual how much of the field Reese would end up covering over her three years as a Cyclone.

Despite the unlikelihood of her situation, however, she has found success in each of her different roles which she and her teammates accredit to two key aspects: athleticism and willingness to change.

“She’s super athletic and can do a lot of different things,” said ISU softball coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler. “She can play second, third, anywhere in the outfield, catching. Anywhere she goes, she’s going to be good.”

Reese, as Gemeinhardt-Cesler can speak to, has had excellent success in the field, but also has been one of Iowa State’s top producers at the plate.

On Oct. 12, in the Cyclones’ second matchup of the day against Iowa Central, she plated five runs batted in, adding on to her two other RBIs that she produced in the opening game.

Tack on her speed on the base paths, 11-11 in stolen bases in 2013, and there is little doubt in the necessary athleticism that Reese possesses. 

However, as most coaches can attest to, without a proper attitude and willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of the team, a player will not be able to utilize his or her full potential.

However, that has not been a problem for this former Razorback.

“She is willing to do whatever she can for the team,” said senior right-handed pitcher Paris Imholz. “She’ll stay after [practice], she’ll ask questions, she’ll do whatever she can to be the best at whatever she’s asked to do.”

That readiness to not only switch positions at a moment’s notice, but also attack the new position with the same tenacity she attacks any other position, has proved crucial in situations where injuries and unexpected performances from teammates have resulted in an immediate need for Reese’s versatile skill-set.

Last March, when an injury struck former ISU left fielder Liana Henry at a tournament in Louisville, Reese, a junior third baseman at the time, promptly and successfully replaced Henry in the outfield for an extended part of the season.

“As a coach, it’s great to know that wherever we’re the weakest, we can put [Maddie] and we’re going to be immediately stronger,” said Gemeinhardt-Cesler. 

Given the graduation of former ISU second baseman Sara Davison last spring, a new weak spot was exposed in the middle infield.

Not only did this affect Reese, who now plays the position she became familiar with in her childhood, in high school and at Arkansas, but it also impacted senior shortstop Lexi Slater, who now has to adjust to communicating with Reese instead of Davison.

“We’re starting to know how each other play,” Slater said. “She’s doing an awesome job. She’s taking extra reps all the time; we just have to get used to each other.”

Despite her return to her most comfortable spot in the field, both Reese and Gemeinhardt-Cesler recognize that nothing is set in stone.

“I definitely think there’s a chance that she’ll switch,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “It doesn’t depend necessarily on what Maddie’s doing but kind of what everyone else is doing.”

Due to the recent injury of junior infielder Aly Cappaert along with the hot-hitting from freshman infielder Gabby Voulgaris, many factors are still up in the air. 

Even so, Reese has realized and accepted that she needs to be prepared to perform whenever the team requires her versatility. She plans to confront every opportunity with the same effort and excitement.

She’s just content to be playing the game she loves.

“I’m just excited to be on the field,” said Reese. “It’s actually really exciting to play new positions. So, anywhere I can play that will help the team, I’m happy to play.”