Jade Hewitt Media

Nicole Pendley is a professional softball player for Athletes Unlimited. A 2x national champion for the University of Oklahoma, Pendley also serves as a graduate assistant coach for Mississippi State. 

What went into your decision to join Athletes Unlimited?

I liked the uniqueness of the league. It was something totally different than the NPS [National Pro Fastpitch], which I previously played in, and I feel like I just didn’t have the best experience with the NPS. So something new and different was refreshing, and it intrigued me.

So you had your first games of the season this weekend. What are your thoughts about how those went? 

I mean, I knew there were really good players in this league, but it just solidified that it’s just the best of the best in every game. People are coming out to play, and the pitchers are being challenged by the hitters, and vice versa. So I just think it really solidified that there’s insanely good players playing.

Moving forward from these games, what have you learned so far?

I mean, nothing crazy in particular. I noticed that it’s really hard to be a coach. I’ve learned that it was hard to make the lineups. I mean, there’s so many good players on my team. It was just hard to put everyone in the lineup and decide where people go. So I tip my hat to all coaches because I didn’t realize how hard it was. And then just trying to make decisions while I’m on the field has been challenging as well.

Now you have seen who is playing well and how people mesh together. Do you think if you get the opportunity to captain a team again, you may pick differently? 

I don’t think I would go about it differently. Any player you get is going to be really good. It’s just the matter of figuring out everyone in this league, how to throw to them, how to play. So I don’t think I would change anything because no matter who I get in the draft, it’s going to be a good team.

Your sister is also playing in the league and you drafted her onto your week one team. What was that experience like and what do you think it will be like playing against each other? 

It will be a little weird, but I think it would be fun to play against her. She definitely helped me on my team. She has a lot of knowledge, just like all the other players. So just her contribution to the coaching side of it was really helpful, but it’ll be interesting to play against her.

With the unique scoring system, there’s an emphasis on individual points. With that in mind, do you have any individual goals that you’re focused on this season?

They haven’t changed. My goal is to get on base. Hit the ball. I haven’t really paid attention to the points very much because I don’t think my approach should change just because there’s points involved. So I mean, it’s the same outlook I’ve always had. Get on base, hit the ball hard.

Athletes Unlimited has redesigned the way you play pro sports. They just added volleyball and there are other sports in the work. What do you think this type of a league will do for women’s sports at the pro level and specifically for softball?

I think it will just put us more on the map. I mean female pro sports are there, a lot of people just don’t know about them. When I ask people about pro softball, they don’t even know there’s a league. So I think Athletes Unlimited, with them taking a unique approach and having a new point system… It’s just going to catch people’s eye. People are going to be interested in how it works, and we’re going to get more viewers, and it’s going to spread. I think just the uniqueness of this league is going to spark a lot of interest in people.

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