Amanda Chidester Is The Best Hitter In Professional Softball
In a league full of the world's best softball players, it's often hard for athletes in the National Pro Fastpitch to stand out. But for Amanda Chidester, who is currently in the midst of her first full season in the NPF, it hasn't appeared to be very difficult.
Undoubtedly, Chidester has been the NPF's best hitter this season, both statistically and otherwise, as her talent has risen to the top of America's premier professional softball league. In her first year as a member of the Chicago Bandits, Chidester has possessed the rare combination of power and consistency. The catcher currently leads the NPF in home runs (13), RBIs (32), slugging percentage (.807) and doubles (10). To boot, she ranks second in batting average (.371) and hits (43) this season.
"I just feel like the environment with the Bandits has been a very good one for me to grow in as both a player and as a person," Chidester told Softball America in a phone interview. "When you’re in that type of environment, things will definitely take off for you."
After spending seven years with Team USA following her graduation from the University of Michigan in 2012, Chidester signed a one-year deal with the Bandits in February. While the 2019 campaign marks her first full season in the NPF, it is technically not her first rodeo in the league.
Though she decided to play with the USA Softball program in 2012 despite being drafted by the now-defunct Akron Racers that spring, Chidester was a member of the Scrap Yard Dawgs—who competed in the NPF for two seasons—in 2016. She played in just a handful of games with Scrap Yard that summer before returning to international action with Team USA.
But if you ask Chidester, she'll tell you she feels right at home in the NPF with the Bandits, despite having less than one year of experience on the team.
"Things with the Bandits have been absolutely amazing," said Chidester, a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year at Michigan. "I love our GM and coaching staff. They’ve been all in with us. The team environment and the team itself have been awesome. And the fan experience at the Ballpark at Rosemont has also been unbelievable."
Chidester's Bandits are currently in first place in the NPF standings with five games remaining in their regular-season schedule. Chicago has already clinched a spot in the 2019 NPF Championship Series, which will begin next week on the Bandits' home field at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Ill. The Bandits are scheduled to take on the reigning-champion USSSA Pride in a best-of-five series that will take place Aug. 15–19.
"We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and stay together," the 29-year-old Chidester said about her team's approach to the 2019 NPF Championship Series. "Every team preaches embracing their roles, but this team really does embrace their roles. In my opinion, that’s been what has made us so successful this season. Everyone is always ready to go and we all know and accept our roles."
While a Cowles Cup championship with the Bandits is definitely at the forefront of her focus right now, Chidester has another softball goal on her mind these days: earning a spot on Team USA for next summer's Olympics in Tokyo. As one of 30 invitees announced for USA Softball's Olympic Selection Trials in October, Chidester has a chance to see her Olympic dream fulfilled in 2020.
"It’s an amazing opportunity to get invited and it’s something I’ll never take for granted," Chidester stated. "I’ve learned that lesson this year playing with the Bandits. I’ve taken in every moment of this summer. I try to live in every moment and just go for it in everything I do."
In the meantime, Chidester is focused on continuing to give her all to softball, both with the Bandits as they finish up the 2019 NPF season and in her upcoming tryout for a spot on Team USA.
"My approach since softball has gotten back into the Olympics has been to live with no regrets," said Chidester. "I want to go out making it to the top of my game, and whatever happens from there, will happen from there. I know that I’ve given it everything I have."