KENT: Three weeks ago, infielder Maddy Grimm anchored a Kent State team that won the Mid-American Conference softball tournament.
Now she’s already preparing for her rookie National Pro Fastpitch season.
Grimm has practiced four times with the Racers, who picked her with the 23rd overall selection in April’s NPF draft. Her home games will be in Firestone Stadium, where the fourth-seeded Golden Flashes edged No. 2 Ohio 3-0 in the MAC title game to advance to the NCAA Waco Regional.
Just days after the Flashes were eliminated with a 4-0 loss to James Madison on May 20, Grimm moved from Kent to Akron and joined the Racers.
This month has been a frenzy for Grimm, and the chaos continues this weekend as the Racers, who finished 22-30 a season ago, travel to Chicago to open the season against the defending champion Bandits. The three-game series begins at 8:05 p.m. Thursday.
The Racers will play three more series on the road before their home opener on June 21 against the Beijing Shougang Eagles.
“I’m still just kind of absorbing everything,” Grimm said. “It’s the same thing I did in college — just sit back, do my best, and take everything for what it is.”
A native of Stahlstown, Pa., Grimm finished her KSU career as the Golden Flashes’ all-time leader in home runs (50) and RBI (137). Last season, she hit .329 with 19 home runs and 55 RBI.
Grimm said Racers practices, which usually run about three hours, are more demanding than the ones she went through at KSU. The pace is faster and more efficient, and when she faces live pitching, it’s against some of the best pitchers in the country. Every player on the field can make a remarkable play on defense.
“Your approach in practice is going to be a little bit different in a game, but we’ll see how the games go,” Grimm said. “I don’t have enough experience to talk about the experience yet.”
Before Grimm was drafted, she knew the Racers were interested. She was on a draft list and figured if she wasn’t selected, she’d attend an open tryout weeks later.
The night of the draft, Grimm and her KSU teammates huddled around a television in the locker room and watched. With each pick, Grimm started to think she might go undrafted. But with only three picks to go, Grimm heard her name called.
“She can really swing the bat,” Racers coach Brian Levin said of Grimm. “Just looking at the numbers she had [in college] — she was a tremendous player, and I know from just talking to some of the coaches there, they just feared her. Anytime you’ve got that kind of presence as a hitter, that’s always going to be helpful.”
Since draft night, Grimm has occasionally texted Emma Johnson, a former Kent State teammate who pitched two seasons for the NPF’s Pennsylvania Rebellion. The team has since disbanded, but Johnson passed along valuable advice to Grimm.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming,” Grimm said. “There’s so much new, so much change, but it’s still softball. It’s just nice to know that she’s understanding what I’m talking about. It’s nice to have her to talk to her about it. It’s kind of like being a freshman all over again.”