Sports fans and media like to use words like "great" and "superstar" to describe athletes, but too often, those superlatives are just a bit too much. I'm a little more conservative when using those words. It's no offense to the many star athletes I have seen, but when I am talking elite players in Chicago, I think of Michael Jordan and Walter Payton.
I have to add one more name to that list. Monica Abbott of the Chicago Bandits is truly an elite pitcher.
In 2015, she went 16-1 with 2 saves and an ERA of .31. She struck out 175 batters and walked only 26. Opposing batters hit a paltry .108 against her. She also pitched a perfect game and a no-hitter. In the championship finals, she pitched two complete game shut outs.
As great as this season was, it was not a fluke. For her career in the NPF, Monica is 86-34 with an ERA of .99. That's ridiculous. In 8 years in the NPF, she has averaged giving up less than one run per game.
Monica is a bulldog. After pitching 9 innings for a win near the end of the season, she told me she was willing to go as long as it took to win that game. In the NPF championship, it was all Monica. I'm willing to bet if she lost the second game, she would have started the third game (which would have been the deciding game).
Her success goes beyond the NPF, too. She has excelled in the Olympics and in Japan. I even saw that game face when the Bandits were playing three exhibition games in midseason.
As I wrote, Monica is an elite player. Monica is a once in a generation player. You can't help but appreciate the performance and effort she gives every time.
I have been fortunate enough to watch Monica up close for the last two seasons. I know I am witnessing greatness and I appreciate it.
I had the pleasure of posing with Monica and the Cowles Cup in the locker room 2015 championship celebration. The best player and the trophy for the best team. That is about as cool as it gets.
Monica Abbott, the Cowles Cup and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2015.