by Erin Stilton
VIERA, FL-Victoria Draper has turned in her Auburn Tigers college uniform and now wears Chinese red as she plays for the Beijing Shougang Eagles professional softball team.
Beijing’s roster is dominated by Chinese nationals, joined by American pitchers Emily Watson, Allie Walljasper, Brittany Gray and Angel Brunner.
Draper talked a little bit about life on what is essentially China’s national softball team and her first season as a professional softball player.
One of Draper’s biggest adjustments in the jump from college to the Chinese professional team has been communicating with her teammates.
“In college ball, I knew the outfield I was playing with every day,” Draper said. “I was used to playing with them, I knew how much range we can cover and with this we’re not speaking the same language…it’s been a huge obstacle, but it’s been fun.”
Draper said life in the pros has been less stressful than life in college where the entire season is seemingly focused on the post-season and reaching the Women’s College World Series.
“In college ball there’s so much pressure to go to the postseason where as this, they’re trying to learn,” she said. “The game is fun again.”
The team is playing in America to get the Chinese players more high level experience, so Draper said most of the women on the Eagles are here to learn and improve their game.
“They’ve been soaking up everything, it’s incredible,” she added.
She said that she’s at a disadvantage with the language barrier than her teammates. The other three Americans are all pitchers and the relationship between pitchers and catchers is critical in softball, so the employ a translator to communicate with each other.
With the pitchers and catchers having a translator, it leaves draper to fend for herself, with no other option than to try to learn the language as she goes.
“It’s a free for all for Vic,” she said being the only fielder on the field, out in the outfield without an interpreter, which has an advantage. “I’ve picked up quite a bit.”
Draper was selected 19th overall in the National Pro Fastpitch draft. She’s batting .407 in her rookie season in the league.
Read more NPF News: Warren Hits First Pro Home Runs in Double Header.
Photos by Erin Stilton. Erin Stilton is a Freshman varsity softball player at Jackson Liberty High School. Follow Erin’s softball interviews and commentary on Twitter.