How Slapping Changed Madison Melvin’s Game
Madison Melvin is a senior outfielder for West Chester University at the Division II level of college softball.
Playing in the competitive PSAC, Melvin has been outstanding in her college softball career to date. In her junior season, Melvin earned All-American honors as well as the Golden Shoes Award with 56 stolen bases, which goes to the Division II stolen bases leader. She now holds West Chester's career stolen base record with 89 heading into her senior season.
With her speed, baserunning skills and small-ball game, Melvin knew she would be able to play high-level, competitive collegiate softball. She encountered many changes and challenges, however, to get to this point in her career.
Softball America spoke with Melvin about how positional changes can positively impact one's college softball career, along with other important parts of her softball journey.
Softball America: What is it like to play college softball at the Division II level?
Madison Melvin: I was never focused on what division I was playing in, I just wanted to play at a more competitive level. Playing at the Division II level is challenging and rewarding. My coaches, Diane Lokey and Laura Altenburger, push us out of our comfort zones every day. You have to work hard and give it your all, regardless of what division you are playing in.
SA: What made you switch from hitting right-handed to left-handed, and how has that impacted your game?
MM: Ever since I was in 8th grade, my travel coaches, Rich Onorato and Randy MacNair, started introducing me to the idea of slapping. I tried it here and there, but I did not want to switch over. This went on until my junior year of high school, and ever since then, I have hit lefty. It was hard to begin implementing in games when I first started because I was not consistently successful, which brought my confidence down. I also did not really understand just how much it could positively impact my game, but once I started doing it full time, I realized that it was nothing but beneficial. I like to use my speed to my advantage, and once I started getting more comfortable with bunting and soft slapping, I knew I could use it to really impact my game. I am still learning every day, but I am glad that I made this change for myself and my softball career.
SA: You also changed fielding positions, going from second base to the outfield in college. What was that like for you?
MM: It was a tough transition for me, especially at the collegiate level. Playing second base my whole life up until that point meant that I was very quick with transitions, but I was throwing completely sidearmed. This did not translate well into the outfield, as I was not comfortable or confident knowing I had these differences in how I threw. It took a long time to transition, and sometimes I do go back to my old ways, but I am way more comfortable now than I ever thought I would be.
SA: You have a younger sister, Hailey Melvin, who plays on your team as well. What is it like to play college softball with your sibling?
MM: Playing with my sister makes my experience so much more fun. We played on different teams growing up, until my junior year when she moved onto my travel team, the New Jersey Mystics. She has always joked that she would never want to play at the same school as me, but when she visited West Chester, she fell in love with it like I did. I was very excited when I found out she decided to go there. Our level of competitiveness definitely has grown, but we love to cheer for each other and watch each other's successes.
SA: What is a piece of advice you would give to younger players who are thinking about changing a position or the way they hit?
MM: My advice to younger players who may want to change to slapping or any other part of their game is to just try it out. You do not have to completely switch something right away, but do not be discouraged from giving it a chance. There were times when I was just starting that I would slap until I had two strikes, then I would go back to (batting) righty. Once you get the hang of anything you do, it is so rewarding.