Nosan undeterred despite tryout setback

Joey Payeur

The deck may have been stacked against her but Shelby Nosan was all in from the start—and very nearly produced a winning hand.
Despite not making the final cut at the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) open tryout in Chicago on May 29, the 23-year-old Baudette, Mn. native, who plays shortstop for the Stratton Eagles in the Rainy River District Fastball League, was clear on two points.
She still believes she belongs at a pro level—and she’s not giving up her dream of doing so.
“I was pretty upset at first because I thought I did really well,” admitted Nosan, who went into the tryout nursing a thumb injury she had to keep heavily-taped so she could play.
“But once I left, I tried to think of the good things that came from this, like knowing I can still be home with friends and family for the summer and get to play ball in the RRDFL,” she reasoned.
“I also was able to realize that I can compete at the professional level and even though I didn’t get picked, I know for myself that I could play there and to stay confident in myself,” she added.
Nosan played in the men’s exhibition game on the first day of a pitching clinic put on by International Softball Hall-of-Famer Darren Zack at Big Grassy First Nation.
She then jumped in the car very early the next morning to make the lengthy drive to the tryout in Chicago, which was put on by the defending NPF champion Chicago Bandits, with several NPF teams also on hand.
“The Bandits’ coaches e-mailed those trying out on Sunday to attend their practice on Saturday,” noted Nosan, a fixture in the RRDFL’s all-star game the past few seasons.
“We would be able to join them in a typical practice and help them with base runners,” she explained.
“So I was able to go to practice Saturday and there were about 15 other girls there, as well.
“It was so much fun to practice with the Bandits’ team and jump in on live situations with them, such a cool experience,” she enthused.
Then on the morning of the tryout, Nosan stepped onto the field at the Ballpark at Rosemont and had a cinematic flashback.
“Walking in definitely felt like I was in the scene of a modern version of ‘A League of Their Own,’” she recalled, referring to the 1992 movie starring Geena Davis and Tom Hanks about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
“I got to meet girls from all around the world and most of them were NCAA Division I players that I’ve watched on TV for the last four years of my life.
“I met girls from the east and west coast, and a lot of southern players, too,” Nosan added.
“There were close to 50 people trying out for maybe three openings.”
The tryout began with the Bandits’ coaches measuring the players in terms of how fast they could run from home to first and first to third, as well as their sprint times while wearing their gloves and their short burst sprint times.
That was followed by the players being put into their defensive positions, where they quickly were tested in practical fashion on their softball knowledge in different situations, with the coaches using base runners as part of the process.
Then it started getting down to the nitty-gritty.
“All of us got two rounds of five hits to try prove ourselves,” said Nosan.
“They then made the first round of cuts, about 30 girls.
“When I made it to the last round of tryouts, I was beyond excited,” she added.
“But before that, it was very nerve-wracking because all of us were kneeling in a circle and the coaches were calling off numbers of those who were staying and if your number wasn’t called, you were to go home,” Nosan recounted.
“My number was 25, so once I heard them call it, I was excited but also upset for those who didn’t get called,” she admitted.
Nosan survived the initial cut and moved on to participate in a scrimmage, where the remaining group was split into two teams, with members of the Bandits’ pitching staff handling duties on the mound.
But somewhere along the line during the scrimmage, things went south for Nosan, who was part of the final group of about 15 players who didn’t make it through the final cut.
Nosan can’t help but wonder if her collegiate pedigree worked against her—having spent the last four years with the NCAA Division III Gustavus Adolphus Gusties (Saint Peter, Mn.)
“I was a little surprised that they didn’t offer up explanations, but I understand that it is a professional level and they have a lot to accomplish at the beginning of their season,” she remarked.
“I think [not] being a Division I player was a main factor in their decision,” she added.
“Out of all the girls there, maybe a third of them were Division III players like myself and all the ones that I knew got cut right away.
“From what I could determine, the five remaining girls were all from big-name Division I schools,” Nosan said.
“I don’t know of any Division III players in the league as a whole, which is upsetting, although I could be wrong.”
But a possible planned expansion by NPF is keeping Nosan’s flame of hope burning bright.
“The league is growing so hopefully more opportunities will arise for all [NCAA] divisions,” she noted.
“Right now, I would like to try out again next year and hopefully all works out so I can.”
Nosan expressed more gratitude than regret for having taken the plunge.
“I’m so glad I made the trip to Chicago,” she said. “I’m proud of myself for what I did there, and I had a lot of fun practising with the Bandits and competing against them and other really good players.
“I’m also so thankful for all the support I received from everyone in the community,” Nosan added.
“I received so many messages wishing me good luck before the tryouts and many more after the tryouts,” she noted.
“What an awesome community.”