Nicole “Sis” Bates was at practice on May 10 when she found out she was selected in the 2021 Athletes Unlimited Softball Draft.
The 2016 Ceres High School grad/University of Washington graduate student shortstop will be added to the player pool for the upcoming season, set to run from Aug. 28-Sept. 27 at the Parkway Bank Complex in Rosemont, Ill.
“We watched in suspense,” Huskies’ head coach Heather Tarr said. “The room went off when her name was announced. She was excited and happy. It’s a small step in her pro journey.”
“We expected her to be drafted,” she added. “Had COVID not happened last spring, she would have been a first-round pick in the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch) Draft.”
Bates’ father John and younger sister Samantha were driving home from Washington when they heard the news.
“I had to hold back tears,” John said. “I was really happy. She was worried she wasn’t going to get drafted. She doesn’t take anything for granted.”
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” he added. “What a journey. It’s pretty wild. It makes me think about all the little things along the way. The competitive fire was there really early.”
The inaugural Athletes Unlimited Softball Draft Class included Bates, Rachel Garcia (UCLA), Giselle Juarez (Oklahoma), Shannon Rhodes (Texas), Dejah Mulipola (Arizona), Amber Fiser (Minnesota), Jessie Harper (Arizona), Ciara Bryan (Louisiana Lafayette), Sami Williams (Iowa State), Aliyah Andrews (LSU), Carrie Eberle (Oklahoma State) and Alyssa Denham (Arizona).
Athletes Unlimited is a player-centered sports organization with teams being re-drafted by player captains every week and a scoring system for both teams and players.
All 30 softball games will be broadcast and streamed around the world as part of a distribution package that includes CBS Sports Network, FOX Sports, FOX Deportes, Facebook and YouTube.
Tickets for all games will go on sale in June.
A two-time First Team All-American, Bates has played every inning of every game at shortstop for the Huskies this season.
She recently became just the third player in program history to collect 300-plus hits in her career.
Her 317 hits put her one away from the Huskies’ all-time record.
She also holds Washington’s career record for triples (18).
Bates was named one of 10 candidates for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award on May 5.
She entered the Pac-12 record books on May 12, becoming just the second player in the conference’s history to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors three times.
Bates and Washington will face top-seeded Oklahoma in the Super Regionals of the NCAA Division-I National Championship Tournament this Friday and Saturday in Norman. A third game will be played on Saturday if needed to determine the winner of the best-of-three series.
The 16th-seeded Huskies (44-12) secured a berth by staving off elimination with back-to-back wins against Michigan (38-8) during the finals of the Seattle Regional.
“We understand how blessed she’s been,” John Bates said. “It’s been a great ride. I never dreamed about these things happening. For her, it won’t sink in until she’s 5-10 years out of the game.”
“She’s an inspiration,” Tarr added. “She’s everyone’s hometown hero.”