By now, the collegiate softball season would have ended. I would have enjoyed many games at DePaul and Northwestern. I also had a planned trip to the University of Wisconsin. Of course, that all got derailed.
My last trip to Madison was in 2018. I interviewed a few former Chicago Bandits who were coaching Wisconsin and Purdue. Those interviews can be found at On the Beat With Kristen Verdun and Danielle Zymkowitz and On the Beat With Tatum Edwards. I also met outfielder Heather Rudnicki.
At the time, Heather was a sophomore. That means 2020 was Heather's senior season, a season cut short by the pandemic. Unfortunately, like other seniors, her softball career ended abruptly with no real notice. After meeting Heather< I started following her career more closely.
Heather played 144 games over her four seasons. Admittedly, I am not an expert on the Wisconsin Badgers, but looking at her stats, it seems she was more of a defensive replacement and pinchrunner. She started 20 games, but only had 47 at bats during her time at Wisconsin. That in no way diminishes her career. I think that speaks volumes of her passion and dedication.
I am always interested in players like Heather. I am sure being a part of a college team is a lot of fun, but it is a lot of work. I have seen how hard DePaul and Northwestern players work and how much time they dedicate to softball. Starters and reserves all have to do the work.
A high school valedictorian, Heather is quoted as saying, ""It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to be a Badger. I will be a fourth generation Badger in my family and I can’t wait to continue the tradition. I have the opportunity to play at the next level while receiving a phenomenal education as well, all while staying close to home. There is no other university and team I would rather cheer for and be a part of. On Wisconsin!"
I can't imagine how cool it would be to have that type of family tradition. Four generations of Badgers is amazing. Clearly Heather was proud of her Wisconsin ties and Wisconsin should be proud of the Rudnicki tradition.
Two more reasons why I like Heather. Her favorite player is Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs. Her favorite movie line is "You're killing me, Smalls" from The Sandlot.
It's a bit unclear how the NCAA will handle eligibility because of the play stoppage. Will seniors get another year? Will incoming freshman be redshirted? It's a tough situation and really nobody wins.
Heather will be fine. She was named to the 2018 and '19 Academic All-Big Ten teams. She is also a business major.
She'll leave the University of Wisconsin with great memories and achievements on and off the field. She will also leave with a writer-fan from Chicago. Thank you Heather and good luck in everything you do in the future.
For more info on the University of Wisconsin's softball program, go to UWBadgers.com. Also, check back here for other softball coverage and hopefully my 2021 return trip to Madison.
Heather Rudnicki and me in Madison, WI-April 2018.