The ultimate honor for any athlete is to be selected to play in a professional league. Ole Miss’ powerhouse athletic program has now sprung yet another Ole Miss Rebel onto the professional scene – Kaitlin Lee was selected Monday night in the 2018 National Pro Fastpitch Draft by the Aussie Spirit.
Lee joins Ole Miss Softball legend RT Cantillo, who was drafted in 2014, as only the second Rebel to be drafted by an NPF team. Lee was selected as the first pick of the fourth round.
“This is an incredible opportunity,” Lee said. “It’s super humbling and incredibly exciting. I wasn’t looking forward to my senior year ending, so now it’s just awesome to have another season to look forward to.”
Her selection is a fitting end to her career at Ole Miss, which saw her rapidly transition to legend status among her peers last season. After transferring from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Lee quickly climbed the ladder in Oxford. During her senior season, Lee threw every pitch during Ole Miss’ run to the SEC Tournament championship game. She later led Ole Miss Softball to its first-ever NCAA Super Regional appearance by throwing three straight complete games.
Lee will have the rare opportunity to represent the Aussie Spirit on the mound during its inaugural season in the NPF. In a struggling league from which three 2017 teams will be missing during the 2018 season, the Spirit is a traveling expansion team that will play its home games in several different venues across the Midwest.
Head coach Mike Smith expressed his pride about Lee’s selection and said he is not surprised that Lee is being rewarded for her prolific college career.
“This is a proud papa moment for me right now,” Smith said. “This is my first professional player, so Kaitlin will always be part of those teams of firsts. I’m really excited for her. She’s demonstrated a lot of hard work, determination and grit to get here. She’s just a hard-nosed player, and that kid deserves everything she’s getting right now.”
The Aussie Spirit is operated by Softball Australia, the governing body of all softball in Australia, and will be competing in a manner similar to that of the China-run Beijing Shougang Eagles. Lee will experience the first-ever season of this new expansion.
“To be able to experience being a professional now, once her collegiate career is over with, that’s a pretty special thing for her,” Smith concluded. “We’ve had some conversations about that, and I’m just glad that she’s being given an opportunity to play at the next level. I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s pretty neat.”
Though Kaitlin Lee will soon be leaving Ole Miss Softball behind to begin her professional career with the Spirit, her impact on the program and the pride in her felt by Mike Smith and his staff will be long-lasting.