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Lauren Chamberlain's Softball Legacy Is Still Being Defined

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(Photo courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch)

Every once in a while, an athlete enters into the realm of her respective sport and leaves an impact that lasts far beyond her crowning achievement. For softball, Lauren Chamberlain is that athlete. Her monster stats, the national championship she won in college, the records she set and the booming home runs she hit—more than anyone in college softball history, in fact—all exemplify the athlete Chamberlain was, before she announced her retirement from softball late last month.

Chamberlain, who hit 95 home runs as a collegiate student-athlete at the University of Oklahoma, helped lead the Sooners to a national title in 2013. After college, she was chosen by the USSSA Pride with the top pick in the 2015 National Pro Fastpitch draft, for whom she blasted 34 home runs and collected 91 RBIs in four professional seasons. Chamberlain was an All-NPF selection last year in her final campaign with the Pride, hitting .350 with 12 homers and 30 RBIs, while also helping USSSA win the 2018 Cowles Cup.

But for Chamberlain’s fans and those who know her best, the home run queen’s impact on her sport, since she emerged as a star at Oklahoma during her freshman season in 2012, stretches far beyond any of her accomplishments.

“She’s given so much to the game,” Oklahoma head softball coach Patty Gasso told reporters after Chamberlain's retirement announcement at the 2019 Women's College World Series, which came due to a recurring lower-back injury. “People are paying attention to the things that she says.”

Though softball players and fans alike have good reason to listen to Chamberlain after all she achieved during her playing career, perhaps her charismatic personality and genuine spirit are what keep people coming back for more from her.

“I have always liked connecting with anybody, whether it’s women my own age or older women,” Chamberlain told Softball America in a phone interview. “I just like sharing experiences with people and trying to get them to be the best versions of themselves. I want to get into their minds and help them realize they have all the power in the world.”

Her desire to impact people, particularly young women and girls who play softball, is what inspired Chamberlain to open her own training facility in Edmond, Okla. called Bulc Performance, which she runs with her boyfriend, former University of Tulsa receiver Brodrick Umblance. Running that facility, along with the camps and events she operates through her umbrella company, Lauren Chamberlain, LLC, keeps the 25-year-old focused on her mission to be a change-maker for others.

“That drive just comes from dealing with my own emotions growing up,” added Chamberlain, who is sponsored by Rawlings Softball and Blast Motion. “I deal with anxiety. I have body image issues. Sometimes my confidence isn’t as high as it should be. Sometimes people peg athletes as being perfect. For me, it’s been more important to show my fans who I am and that we’re more alike than they may think.”

And though Chamberlain expects she’ll soon miss playing the game she’s loved for most of her life, for right now, she is just enjoying the feeling of living pain-free.

“It’s interesting how I feel about not playing right now,” said Chamberlain, who was attempting to return for the 2019 NPF season up until about a week before she announced her retirement from the sport. “There’s a part of me that almost started to resent playing because of the pain. When I see my former [USSSA Pride] teammates playing, I miss the camaraderie more than I miss actually playing. Right now, I am just happy that I’m not in pain.”

While Chamberlain's time competing on the softball field may have concluded, her love for the game endures.

“I hope that people see how much I love the game,” Chamberlain said. “The best years of my life were spent on the dirt. I hope that my passion for the game is exuded, no matter what I am going through in my life. Softball is my love.”

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Q&A With USSSA Executive Director And CEO Don DeDonatis III

USSSA Executive Director and CEO Don DeDonatis III answered questions about the Pride's future in professional softball.