NPF Legend Kelly Kretschman Looks Ahead To What's Next
ROSEMONT, Ill. – After 14 seasons of dedication and dominance in the National Pro Fastpitch, Kelly Kretschman called it a career in the American professional softball league on Saturday after her USSSA Pride team captured its second straight Cowles Cup.
But Kretschman, who announced her plans to retire from the NPF just three days earlier, isn't exactly done playing softball just yet. She will head back to Japan later this week to compete in the Japan Softball League for the second half of her Denso team's season.
"I still have some games left in me, so we’ll see how that ends up going.," Kretschman told Softball America. "But as far as playing in the U.S., I’m done."
At the end of her season in Japan this fall, Kretschman will evaluate whether or not she will continue playing overseas, or if she will transition into a coaching role.
"I would like to stay over there and coach or play, whatever they want me to do," said Kretschman, who went 2-for-4 with two RBI in her final NPF game on Saturday. "I want to give back to the game the best I can."
The slugger turns 40 next week, but she is still playing softball at an extremely high level. Last week, she was named an All-NPF selection for the 10th time in her career, and she is just three years removed from a Triple Crown season that saw her post career highs in multiple offensive categories.
"I’m extremely grateful for all that I’ve been able to do," Kretschman added. "To be able to play for this long, and I really haven't had any significant injuries, it's just been a blessing. I just appreciate everything that I have."
Kretschman is also grateful for the way her NPF playing career ended on Saturday at Parkway Bank Sports Complex against the Chicago Bandits. In her last-ever NPF at-bat, she knocked in a run with a single.
"I guess it’s kind of fitting that that happened," Kretschman said about her sixth-inning hit. "Thankfully, God let that happen. A base hit up the middle pretty much typifies my entire career, so that was exciting. I’m glad my mom got to see it and my dad at home got to watch."
To put a cap on her illustrious NPF career the following inning, Pride head coach Gerry Glasco gave Kretschman some time in center field—where she began her career—before removing her from the game ahead of its final out to a standing ovation from the crowd in Rosemont, Ill.
"I hadn’t played center since I was on the national team, so it had been a little while," Kretschman stated. "That’s where I started my career, so just to be back there and to take in the great atmosphere and try to enjoy the moment, it was really cool. Life is about moments and that was one that I made sure to appreciate."
While Kretschman is now focused on the remainder of her season in Japan, she feels content about the way her NPF tenure ended, and is excited for the possibilities that are ahead for her.
"I’m just happy," Kretschman said. "I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out. This group has been amazing to play with. There’s nothing really that I can be upset about. Maybe I’ll be coaching (the Pride) next year, we’ll see."