It’s cold in Iowa, the Cyclones softball southern players are adjusting

Head Coach Jamie Pinkerton talks to Member of the Iowa State Softball team during the 7th inning Sep. 23. The Cyclones defeated the Kirkwood Eagles 9-1.

Ivan Vega

It is 75 degrees, you are within a pitch from ending your senior year of softball, and it is the end of your high school career. You have been offered a Division I scholarship to continue your softball career. Now, you could have signed with any team out there, and for some reason some coach from the Midwest convinces you that you are a key foundation of forming a new team.

You are a foundation member of a new program, and you sign your national letter of intent to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. A power five program for football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and, yes, softball. You choose to attend school in Ames, Iowa, not because you like the cold, but because you like the idea of adding to tradition and being a key member at the next level.

Fast-forward to the first practice, not outdoors in the good ole diamond in 75-degree weather, but rather in the sports facility named Bergstrom Indoor Facility, a turf-field used mostly by the football team.

Bergstrom is next to Jack Trice Stadium, the home of Iowa State football. Your sport facility is roughly a mile away. The reason you can’t train is because it is 15 degrees outside. There is snow and ice on the roads, sidewalks, and yes, on the beloved diamond.

This is the life of every southern player in the Cyclone softball program. Coming from the likes of California, Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, to Montana, Minnesota, and Iowa of course, the Cyclone softball team is composed of a diversity of players. Not just from the playing aspect, but from a “what I call home” state.

We can look at the 2018 roster, Kirsten Caudle (San Bernardino), Jackie Chairez (Highland), Sami Williams (Laguna Niguel), Julie Lewis (Arroyo Grande), Sally Woolpert (Cypress), Skyler Ramos (Ventura) and Nychole Antillon (Orange) are all from the state of California. Meanwhile, Kaylee Bosworth (Manvel, Texas) and Cara Beatty (Las Vegas, Nevada) and Savannah Sanders (Mt. Juliet, Tennessee) are also from the south. 

Roughly 33 percent of the team is composed from players from outside the Midwest of the United States. With that comes a lot of learning and readjustments from the players not only to getting to college, and learning how to play at the next level, but having to learn to play in the cold and get used to the way Iowa State does softball during the winter season.

New head coach Jaime Pinkerton has recruited three top prospects for the next incoming class, including Kasey Simpson out of Keller, Texas, the No. 33 player in the recruiting class. But his recruiting style has always been consistent.

Antillon, a senior out of Orange, California, was recruited by former head coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler.

“They definitely informed me that it was going to be cold,” Antillon said. “They didn’t really say other than bring a lot of warm stuff and that they will provide me with a lot of warm stuff.”

In her time as an infielder for Iowa State, she has adapted her playing style when practicing in the cold, and playing in warmer weather.

“Coming from California I never wore [layers of clothes], and coming here I wear leggings, and three [layers],” Antillon said. 

Fellow teammate and Californian sophomore infielder Sami Williams also agrees with the transition of geographical areas being strong.

“In working on fielding indoors, I hadn’t really had experience fielding indoors,” Williams said. “Making that transition from playing on turf to dirt is a tough transition.”

Iowa State, for the majority of the winter season, practices indoors, which troubles the infielders and outfielders. Specifically, in the infield it is hard for them to predict the hops and the speed of the ball.

Williams does admit that the conditions from playing in Iowa are new to a lot of these players not used to playing in wet and cold conditions.

“In Iowa, you play through a lot tougher weather. Back home if it starts raining, they call the game, but up here you play through it until it gets really bad,” Williams said.

Probably the furthest from her natural home conditions will have to be Bosworth. The Manvel high school alum, played year-round like most of the southern players, playing in Spring, Texas, for a club softball team during the offseason.

“Obviously when its warmer, my body feels better and looser, but hydration and stretching is important,” Bosworth said. 

Being a catcher, her biggest adjustment was not the pitching coaches, or even the head coaching changes, but rather her catching skills in different weathers.

“When it came to catching, the biggest adjustment was getting used to not being able to feel my hand,” Bosworth said. “When it gets cold, I can’t feel it other than the first few pitches, but after a couple pitches it just goes numb.”

With all of these adjustments to the colder weather, one would think that these players would be repelled to come play in colder temperatures. But Pinkerton says it’s not surprising at all.

“We are upfront with them, we tell them that it snows, and that it gets cold,” Pinkerton said. “In the areas we are recruiting, Texas and California, where there’s only so many Division I schools, they don’t have room for all of them, so they start branching out.

“We have a world class university to sell. We just preach academics, and that there’s not really a big professional contract waiting for them, so they gonna get a quality education.”