“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.
“The hard is what makes it great.”
So uttered Jimmy Dugan, the rough-edged manager of the Rockford Peaches professional women’s baseball team played by Tom Hanks in the 1992 film, “A League of Their Own.”
And just like the hundreds of girls who tried out for their version of the big leagues during the movie, Shelby Nosan will get to see firsthand how hard it can be to become a professional ball player.
The Baudette, Mn. native and all-star shortstop for the Stratton Eagles—the only female player in the Rainy River District Fastball League—will throw her cap in the ring with dozens of other women’s fastball players gathering in Chicago this Sunday.
They all have the same mission: do enough during an open tryout to impress the scouts on hand to earn a roster spot on the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) circuit.
“I wanted to try out last year but it was the same day as my graduation from college,” said the 23-year-old, who completed her education degree at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Mn.
“The reason I went to school was to get my education.”
Nosan starred for the NCAA Division III Gustavus Adolphus Gusties in the MIAC from 2012-15, including being named to the Midwest All-Region Third Team as an at-large selection in her final two seasons.
She finished her collegiate career with a .353 batting average and led the Saints in her senior year in hits (53), walks (23), and on-base percentage (.455).
Nosan, who joined the Eagles this season after being an RRDFL all-star the past two with Windey’s Warriors, returned to the Saints as an assistant coach this past year.
It was another assistant coach in the MIAC, Roman Foore of the Bethel University Royals, who paved the way for Nosan to set her sights on the NPF.
“[Foore] is an assistant coach with the [NPF’s] Chicago Bandits and he encouraged me to go try out after seeing me play,” she recalled.
The tryout officially is being conducted by three teams—the Bandits and two others—but Nosan was pretty sure that’s not where the interest level will end.
“Really, it’s for the whole league because the managers of the teams talk to each other about the good players they have seen,” noted Nosan, who is less than enthralled with The Ballpark at Rosemont, where the tryout will be conducted.
“It’s a turf field . . . that sucks,” she grimaced.
“I hate turf,” she added. “It should be all natural when it comes to ball.
“I can’t stand new-age baseball, although we did have a turf field at Gustavus and the nice part is the hops are true.”
Players at the tryout will be judged on their hitting skills, base running and a 40-yard dash time, fielding, arm strength, position specific skills, and knowledge of the game.
“They want to see what we can do, especially at the plate, so it will be pretty laid-back,” Nosan said.
“It’s not going to be Monica Abbott in there that we’re trying to get a hit off of,” she chuckled, referring to the former Bandits’ pitcher and U.S national team member.
Abbott joined the NPF’s Scrap Yard Dawgs (The Woodlands, Tex.) as a free agent this past off-season, signing a six-year contract for an estimated $1 million (U.S.), which is believed to be the most lucrative ever paid by an individual American professional franchise to an active female athlete in any team sport.
“That was a big day for women’s sports,” Nosan said about the 30-year-old ace.
“Monica’s been my idol my whole life.
“I messaged her for any tips she might have for me for my tryout opportunity, and she message me right back and said, ‘Go for it, give it your all.’”
Nosan means no disrespect to her new Stratton teammates by taking a road that may lead her away from them for the rest of the season.
“This is fun and it’s a real competitive league,” she said about the RRDFL.
“But I’ve dreamed of being on a national team when I was younger and this could be my way into it,” she reasoned.
“I don’t want to be done with my softball career,” Nosan added.
“Well, I’ll never really be done . . . I’m going to be so old, they’ll have to make me quit,” she laughed.
Nosan hoped her versatility will be a boon to her chances in Chicago.
“I think I’ll be aiming to be a utility infielder,” said the shortstop, who also pitches in the RRDFL and has played every infield spot in her softball career.
“They’re pretty set for outfielders with the Bandits, but their shortstop just retired, they’ve only got two catchers, and second base is up for grabs,” Nosan noted.
“I’ll tell them I’ll throw batting practice. Anywhere they want to put me is fine.”
Nosan is battling gigantic odds as only one player lower than NCAA Division I—two levels higher than what she played at Gustavus Adolphus—even has received a sniff of action in the NPF.
But just as she digs in against the high-velocity hurlers she faces on a weekly basis in the RRDFL, this role model for the district’s next generation isn’t about to back down.
“It would be really cool to represent Gustavus as a professional player,” she remarked.
“My message to young girls would be if you have a passion for it and want to work hard, you’ve got a shot to do anything you want.”