Kendall Veach Is Hitting Her Stride With The Beijing Eagles
The development of softball players is often as varied and unpredictable as the playing styles that typically exist on any particular team. Some players peak in high school, reaching the summit of their softball potential before they ever even have a chance to don the uniform of a college program. Others reach their softball pinnacle when they are in college, often taking multiple collegiate seasons to become complete players. Still others—some of the lucky ones who have opportunities to play softball after college graduation—blossom into the best versions of their softball-selves as professional players.
The last statement has become a reality for Beijing Eagles rookie Kendall Veach this summer in the National Pro Fastpitch. Veach, a 2019 graduate of Auburn University, is enjoying a successful first season as a pro softball player, as she currently ranks third in the NPF in batting average at .389 and is tied for third in on-base percentage at .476.
"I’m just trying to have fun," Veach told Softball America in a phone interview. "My teammates hype me up and give me so much confidence every game."
The 22-year-old, who was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 NPF draft, became a pro following a stellar senior season for the Tigers. After an up-and-down first three years in college that included her starting just one game as a freshman, Veach saved her best for last at Auburn. She earned First Team All-Region and Second Team All-SEC honors after blasting 20 home runs in 2019 for the Tigers. Veach believes the growth she underwent as a player during her last collegiate campaign has helped her succeed with the Eagles right off the bat.
"The whole summer leading up to my senior year, I made a promise to myself to work on my swing each day," said Veach, who has played first and third base, along with catcher this summer for the Beijing squad. "I always had a plan at the plate as a senior and became more comfortable with myself and my swing. That has helped me in the NPF."
If you ask the person who is perhaps closest to Veach—her older brother, Hunter, who is also her head coach in the NPF—her ability to take on the role of player-coach this season with the Eagles is also largely responsible for her early success as a pro.
"Her primary role is helping our Chinese players develop a plan at the plate," Hunter told Softball America. "That’s her job. When she comes out to the field each day, it is to make others better. The best way to learn how to do something is by coaching it. That has helped her a lot mentally in her own offensive approach."
The Eagles, who are largely comprised of softball players from the Chinese women's national team, are in the midst of their third NPF campaign. This year is Hunter's first at the squad's helm, which has made the 2019 season even more of a treat for the Beijing team's softball-loving siblings.
"It's been awesome," Veach said about sharing her rookie experience with Hunter, who also coached her during her first two seasons at Auburn. "We have such a close bond. It’s really fun having him there to talk to and experience this with. Seeing him grow as a coach is really cool too. He works so hard. I strive to be just like him when I get older."
Veach is also enjoying the culturally-diverse experience of playing on a team with mostly international players. She says her Chinese teammates have provided her with opportunities for growth both on and off the softball field.
"I find myself saying Chinese words now and we eat authentic Chinese food before every game," Veach said with laughter. "It’s so cool. The game is still the same, even though there are language barriers. I've learned a lot from (my teammates)."
And the four-time Academic All-SEC selection knows she has more learning to do. While Veach has aspirations to eventually attend graduate school for occupational therapy, and maybe even explore opportunities in college coaching, her current goals revolve around developing more as both a teammate and a player for the Eagles.
"I want to get to know my teammates more," Veach said. "I want to learn the game more, and I want to learn from my brother on the coaching side for the future. I’m definitely still developing."