Softball: Why I Play: Maeve Nelson talks recruitment, Women’s College World Series


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

No. 4 softball player Maeve Nelson celebrates an April 2022 win against Ohio State.

Aria Wozniak, Senior Staffer

As a kindergartner, graduate student infielder Maeve Nelson’s mornings began with more than just coloring and playtime. Each morning after breakfast, her father would take her to the library to read, then to practice hitting at the softball field behind it.

Nelson’s father played Minor League Baseball, so her family would often joke that since her three sisters played volleyball, she had to “take one for the team” by playing softball.

Since coming to Northwestern in 2019, Nelson said she has achieved many personal and team accolades, including playing in the Women’s College World Series. The Daily spoke with Nelson about the impact of being recruited to play softball since age 12, her time at NU and her best memories on the field.

“Why I Play” is a Q&A series where Wildcats discuss their love for their sports and how they got their starts. This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily: Why did you decide to pursue softball seriously?

Nelson: (I was) put in a really interesting position.

I started getting recruited when I was in seventh grade. I had no idea where I wanted to go to high school, and then I had to decide where I (wanted) to go to college. That was just the nature of the game at that point.

I committed my freshman year of high school, so I was 14 when I decided I wanted to come here. I never really thought about it much until I got older. No one ever asked me if I wanted to play softball in college. No one ever asked me if I’d wanted to be a normal student or what else I wanted to get out of my college career, so I think that’s something I struggled with a lot my junior and senior year of high school.

As I got here, my life was so much different than my (high school) friends. A lot of the time they would go visit each other’s schools and I couldn’t go beside softball.

The Daily: When you were recruited, you were really young. Did you understand what it meant to be recruited for Division 1 softball?

Nelson: I think I did a little bit. I thought it was cool, but weird because no one around me was experiencing it. It was really hard to talk about. It’s kind of isolating … so I kind of hid from it and didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t celebrate as much as I probably should have at that age, but my family always made a really good point to make sure I knew how big an accomplishment it was. It made me grow up pretty quickly too.

The Daily: Do you feel content with your choice?

Nelson: I think now as I’m almost 23 and looking back at my college career, I would not trade it for a single thing in the entire world.

I think (when I was younger), I was so interested in little moments of pleasure like partying and Instagram posts. Now looking back on it, I’ve learned so many life lessons and have so many more valuable moments in my life than I could have gotten from going to some random party school. How many people can say they hit a walk off home run? How many people can say they went to the World Series?

I love Northwestern softball. I’ve loved how much being a student athlete has taught me as a person and I’m just taking away so many great lessons.

Daily: What is your biggest accomplishment? What are you most proud of?

Nelson: One core memory I have of last year: We played this extra inning, a really intense game against UCLA. At the time, we were ranked (No. 23). I was blessed to have the opportunity to end the game and I hit a walk off home run against the No. 3 team in the country.

It was a surreal moment. I remember walking in the dugout after we won and my dad (was) sobbing, saying “I’m so proud of you.” That was the proudest I’ve ever been of the work I put in. When I took time (to think) after that game, I thought everything that I’ve done has led me to this point.

The Daily: What was going through your head while you were on the field, playing at the Women’s College World Series?

Nelson: I was just thinking about me as an eight-year-old, thinking, I would be so proud of myself right now and I would think (I was) the coolest person in the entire world. Another thing that makes it hard to be present is the day-to-day. (When) you’re in the rough of things, you don’t take a second to (realize): “I am so freaking cool.”

Little kids come up and ask for my autograph and wear (my jersey) number four. You don’t realize how many people you touch because you’re just focused on yourself and getting to the next day and getting through practice. I’m not changing the course of the world by any means, but I’m affecting small girls’ lives. I think as far as I can touch, that’s really meaningful to me.

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Twitter: @ari_wozz

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