As an eighth-grader, Abi Drotzmann was showing signs of production on the softball field. She was starting to mature physically and was developing a strong passion for softball.
“She loved it, she had a passion for it,” her father David Drotzmann said. “I didn’t have to push her too hard. So if you can put skill together with passion, you get a great athlete out of it. She’s gonna be a successful softball player because of that.”
Four years later, surrounded by friends, teammates, coaches, teachers and family, Drotzmann’s passion finally paid off and she made it official Wednesday, signing her National Letter of Intent to play softball at Linfield College, an NCAA Division III school located in McMinneville, Oregon, about an hour west of Portland.
“I always thought I was going to play softball in college,” Drotzmann said. “And then, my sophomore and junior years I realized how hard it was and the commitment I had to do to my fall teams. Then I got lazy and said ‘I don’t want to do this. It’s too much work.’ Then I realized it was way worth it. It’s gonna be fun.”
Drotzmann joins a softball program that is one of the most successful Divison III programs on the west coast and in the country. The Wildcats have won 11 straight Northwest Conference championships, and are picked to win again this season, and have won two national titles since 2007.
Head coach Jackson Vaughn, who has been at Linfield since 2001, was a major reason Drotzmann decided to attend Linfield. She said “he’s a nice guy, he’s a super nice guy,” and the welcoming environment from the team solidified her decision. But Linfield wasn’t always her first choice.
She started by looking at Willamette University in Salem “heavily”, but the Bearcats’ coach, Damian Williams, took a leave of absence for this season, eliminating them from Drotzmann’s considerations. She then thought about George Fox University, which isn’t too far from McMinneville in Newberg, Oregon. But she didn’t think that was for her. She also looked into attending Pacific University in Forest Grove, where her father, David, went, but she is considering optometry as a career choice and she didn’t want to spend eight years at one school.
So, finally, Vaughn called and Drotzmann listened because of the vast success of Linfield’s program. But what really sold Drotzmann was the town of McMinneville itself.
McMinneville is a quaint little town nestled in the hills of the Willamette Valley. It’s wine country is starting to gain national noteriety, but the town isn’t huge. Drotzmann felt at home four hours away.
“Before I went (on my visit), my parents and I went and (visited) downtown McMinneville and it’s not like (Hermiston’s) downtown, it’s more like a cute downtown,” the Hermiston senior said. “I just fell in love with it. Then I went to the campus and it’s old and it’s pretty and it’s green there. Everything is growing.”
She said despite the small-town nature of McMinneville, the campus is large “like Oregon or Oregon State,” which was a plus for her.
Drotzmann, though, understands that there are fewer ways to continue softball after college, so it was important to find a school that fit with her academic plans. Her father made that point, too.
“I’m excited for her to continue her collegiate career playing softball,” David said in his red Linfield shirt. “For us all along it’s been about the college education. There’s not a large professional circuit for softball players beyond college, so it’s more about the education. So to thave the opportunity to play college softball for a successful program like Linfield and get the quality education like you get at Linfield, I couldn’t be more proud.”