Odicci Alexander's incredible summer will include her debut in the Athletes Unlimited professional softball league on Saturday.
Alexander took the sports world by storm at the Women’s College World Series in June when she pitched upstart James Madison to victories over No. 1 seed Oklahoma and No. 5 seed Oklahoma State. Her iron will and energetic play captured the interest of millions amid record television ratings for ESPN.
Since then, she has become one of the most popular players in the sport while embracing her status as a role model for young Black girls in what is mostly a white sport in the United States. She said she has received countless messages from Black girls and women telling her how much she has inspired them.
“It’s amazing because to me, growing up, I was always I was always the only Black girl on the team,” she said of her childhood days in Virginia. “Me personally, I never looked at it any different. I felt like I could do exactly what everyone else did. And I want them, younger female Black athletes, to know that you can do anything you want to do. If you can dream it, you can be it.”
Alexander's dreams continue to come true. She signed a professional contract with the USSSA Pride pro softball team in June, but it was when she attended the ESPYs after being nominated for best women’s college athlete that she really sensed things had changed.
“That’s my first time being at something like that,” she said. “I mean, it was super cool, you know, just being with celebrities -- real celebrities. I’m like, ‘Am I really sitting in this chair right now? Like physically looking at these people?’ I thought that was super cool.”
She has signed deals with Under Armour and Mizuno. And her success has helped her gain more than 27,000 followers on Twitter and more than 86,000 on Instagram.
She said she is trying to stay grounded as more opportunities present themselves.
“I don’t consider myself famous,” she said. “People are like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re famous,’ but I don’t consider myself that. I consider myself still me, and I’m still going to be me. Nothing has really changed about me.”
Still, the visibility has changed things for her beyond the usual shifts that accompany moving from college life into the real world. With Athletes Unlimited, she will play with some of the biggest names of all time in the sport, including defending Athletes Unlimited champion Cat Osterman -- a three-time Olympic medalist.
This will be Athletes Unlimited’s second softball season. The organization crowns an individual champion from a 60-player roster of the sport’s top players. Games will be held at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Illinois, from Aug. 28 to Sept. 27. Players score points during a 30-game season toward determining a champion.
The top 16 players from last season are back, including second-place finisher Jessie Warren and third-place finisher Victoria Hayward. The roster includes 39 returning athletes and 23 Olympians, including nine of the 15 players from the U.S. team that earned silver at the Olympics.
Alexander is one of 11 players from the college ranks last season who will participate this season. Among them are Dejah Mulipola (Arizona), who was on Team USA in Tokyo, Sydney Romero (Oklahoma), who played for Mexico at the Olympics, Alyssa Denham (Arizona), Sis Bates (Washington) and Carrie Eberle (Oklahoma State).
“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Alexander said. “I’m blessed to be here. But I’m still here to compete. I’m happy to be here with athletes that I’ve idolized for years. It’s kind of cool to be on the same field with them and compete against them.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.