ROSEMONT, ILL. – Kelsey Dotson has always kept her small town mentality as she puts it.
That’s even now as the former WCHS softball star will get the opportunity to showcase her big-time talent on one of the sport’s biggest stage.
Dotson, who recently wrapped up her career at Indiana University, has been signed to a 10-day contract by the Chicago Bandits. The Bandits are the defending champions in the National Pro Fastpitch League.
Dotson, a 2012 WCHS graduate, earned her spot on the team after attending a tryout on Sunday. A total of 38 players were involved in the tryout and then nine of those were asked to take part in the team’s exhibition game Sunday night. The team then chose to sign four of the players Monday night, including Dotson.
“I was definitely nervous when they called me in,” said Dotson in a phone interview this afternoon. “When they offered me a 10-day contract, there was no way that I was going to say no. I was ecstatic and just very excited about the opportunity.
“It’s always been a dream to play at this level with the best of the best. There are players in this league who I grew up watching on TV when I was younger. It will be incredible to take the field with and to play against the best softball players in the country.”
The quartet of players signed by the Bandits include Dotson, along with South Carolina outfielder Alaynie Page, Illinois’ utility infielder Allie Bauch and Central Florida catcher Samantha McCloskey.
“We are pleased to welcome these four players to the Bandits family,” said Bandits’ general manager Aaron Moore in a story posted on the team’s website today. “Throughout their tryouts, they showed the talent and mentality that met our standards. We look forward to seeing what they can bring to our team in 2016.
“Our tryouts have always been more than a publicity thing and this year was no different. The players we are keeping fill roles for us, both immediately and in the long-term and it’s also nice adding local talent like we did in Bauch. These four are going to get a chance to contribute to our 2016 team.”
The Bandits, who have been in existence since 2005, were 31-17 last season and won their third Cowles Cup Championship. The team, which plays in the 2,000-seat The Ballpark at Rosemont, opens its season at home Thursday night. The Bandits are slated to play 50 games this season, which ends with the NFP Championships in late August.
Dotson, who has always been known for her passionate play, was a prep phenom while playing for coach Jim Speicher’s Warsaw program. The Silver Lake native hit .554 her senior season with a school-record 12 home runs (which at the time was the third highest single-season total in state history) to go with 37 RBIs. She was All-State and a finalist for the Miss Softball Award in 2012.
Dotson, a catcher with a rifle arm to go with a booming bat, had a huge junior season for the Hoosiers. She hit .349 with 14 homers and a team-high 46 RBI in 2015. Her final season was a tough one as a broken hand suffered on being hit by a pitch that cost her 17 games. She hit .287 with two homers and 21 RBI as IU went 29-25 overall and 10-13 in the Big Ten. Dotson also had just one error and a fielding percentage of .996 for the Hoosiers.
“I’m healthy now,” said Dotson, who returned to the IU lineup in mid-April. “Being off that long takes a toll on you, but I’m headed in the right direction now.”
“I was a little disappointed when I wasn’t drafted, but I was hurt at the time and really was more focused on finishing up at IU and trying to help them get into the NCAA Tournament,” explained Dotson. “The Bandits had contacted my coach at IU so I knew that they were interested in me. I went into the tryout with good hopes.”
Dotson is proud of her Hoosier small town roots. Her twitter account says “I’m living the dream always, remember where you came from.”
“I was just home a couple of weekends ago and drove by the park where I started playing,” recalled Dotson. “The field was all grown up and they had taken the fence down. That was kind of sad. I remember all the hours and hours I put in there when I was young. I hit my first home run there with my dad.”
The 22-year old Dotson, the daughter of Jeff and Brenda Dotson, plans to bring her blue-collar mentality to the table for her new team.
“I’m just going to work hard, do my best and give it everything I’ve got and do everything that they ask of me,” stated Dotson. “I’ve always more or less did what it took to get me there, whether it was IU or now the pro ranks. I knew that I would eventually go places if I was willing to put the work in.
“I love this game and I’m passionate about it.”
No doubt about that for a small town girl with big-time talent.