Sami Fagan: After Two Years Away, I Forgot How Mad I Get When I Lose

Female pitcher ready to pitch / JWS
What went into your decision to join Athletes Unlimited?

I don’t know if you know this, but I haven’t played softball in two years. So, a couple of my friends that are in this league reached out to me and were like, hey, would you be interested in this? And I wasn’t really, because I had been out of the game for two years, and I thought if I came here, I would just get embarrassed because of all the talent here. But they were like, you know what, just listen to the call, and if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to. So I got on the call and AU presented the league and basically from that call, I couldn’t turn away because the structure seemed so cool and also because I was out of work from COVID. I needed income and I just thought about the whole presentation… they really sold me with everything this league is about. It’s pretty awesome.

And how has it felt being back on the softball field after taking some time off? Are you happy with your decision to return to the game?

I’m definitely happy I did it, especially because I miss these girls. I haven’t seen a lot of them in two years, so I’m definitely happy I did it. There are some days I feel really happy. Like wow, I miss this feeling of hitting a home run. And then after losing our first game, I was like, I did not miss this feeling. I forgot how mad I get and how depressing it is to lose. And I was like, God, I did not miss this. But for the most part, when I hit everyday I figured out something and I remembered something that I used to do, and it’s cool to get back into it again.

Your team finished out week 1 with a 7-6 win. Super exciting to end on that high note. What are your thoughts on that game specifically and about how the team made adjustments moving forward after your first two losses?

It was a really cool experience personally for me, because I had to make a lot of adjustments in the lineup, and I feel like the first couple of games I made decisions that I didn’t necessarily feel were right. I was advised by multiple people to do certain things that I felt iffy about. And I think game three, I was just like, nope, I want to win. We need to for our team. So, I’m just going to go with my gut decisions, and I did that. The first two games, we hit the ball well, but not when it needed to be done. So that last game players were like, let’s sacrifice more. Let’s just try to win each inning. That is how you get points. You can have great stats, but if your team doesn’t win, it kills you point wise. So as a team, we just played a little bit more unselfishly and just tried to keep moving runners on base and that’s how we won game three.

As a captain, you also acted as the team’s coach. You picked the lineups and made strategic decisions. Did you have any difficulties balancing your role as a coach and a player? 

There was some stress for sure. I feel bad for my roommate, Sam, because I was venting the whole weekend. It’s difficult because you’re picking nine players for a lineup, when you drafted all of them because they’re all good. So it was difficult. And it was hard for me too, because I had rookies on my team that I’ve never seen play before. And I had veterans who I know have played the best pitchers in the world. So the first couple of games I based my lineup on what I knew and then after that when certain people were not performing I had no choice, I had to take them out. It’s definitely hard because everybody knew my thought process when I was making the lineup, because it’s like, you’re good, but you didn’t do good today. So I know how good they are, but you have such a short time to prove yourself, and I have to go by who’s doing good on that particular day. It was tough.

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? 

Yeah, I think I learned a lot about seeing other teams succeed. I feel like the players I picked are individually very strong. I was a hundred percent confident in my team. They were great. But everybody here is good, so you can’t really go wrong. You just have to trust that you can learn how to play with one another and make it work in a short amount of time. There’s a few adjustments that I may make moving forward just after having that experience.

With the new 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?

No, I really don’t to be honest. I kind of went into this with low expectations, and that might sound bad. But after not playing for two years, I don’t want to have high expectations for myself. I want to do the best that I can do with my skills at this time. I still work out every day. I just want to hit the ball and try to help my team. I just want to win, really.

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 this league is absolutely huge for our sport. I think that it’s already growing so fast, and I think the fact that we’re on ESPN and CBS, and the fact that all the players here have close to a combined one-million followers. They are marketing it great. And I think the biggest thing is that we’re on ESPN and CBS. I think if you look at college softball, it’s huge, and I feel like it’s because it’s on TV and people want to watch. So getting us on TV so people see us is making it big. And I think the point system is awesome. People are like, oh, they’re doing that? It’s exciting for fans and obviously for the players.