Kellsi Kloss ignored the 50-some-odd text messages cluttering her cell phone and dialed her parents.
They had to be the first people the senior catcher called after the Chicago Bandits selected her in the third round of the National Pro Fastpitch college draft April 14. Aside from the unwavering support they provided, her father, Jim, coached Kloss for the majority of her softball career that will culminate at the professional level.
“I just felt like I needed to thank him and my mom, both my parents, so much for believing in me and kind of calming me down through the craziness,” Kloss said Tuesday. “No matter what happened, they always reminded me they were going to be proud of me.”
Kloss was one of three Tigers drafted last week, joining first baseman Sandra Simmons and infielder Bianka Bell. The team interrupted its transit for a three-game set at Mississippi State to watch the draft at a restaurant in Flowood, Mississippi.
“We made a lot of noise,” Simmons said with a laugh, “so the people below us were probably wondering what was happening.”
AJ Andrews had a much better view of the draft than her ex-teammates.
The former All-America outfielder and second-round pick in 2015 was present at this year’s draft, which was held in Nashville, Tennessee. Overwhelmed with excitement for her old teammates, Andrews took pictures when their names appeared on the draft board and sent them to the three seniors.
“I felt like a proud mom,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Simmons and Andrews will reunite as members of the Akron Racers, who chose the first baseman in the fourth round of the 40-pick draft. Chicago, Kloss’ future club, originally selected Simmons with the seventh overall pick last year before trading her to Akron.
Though Simmons will regain a former teammate, she’ll lose a long-standing one. She and Kloss spent the four years before they came to LSU playing travel ball together for the SoCal Firecrackers, creating an eight-year run as teammates that will soon end.
“She’s one of my best friends, so it’s going to be weird seeing her in a different uniform and calling pitches against me,” Simmons said.
Kloss added: “I started crying after (Simmons was drafted). Of course I was so excited for her, but the fact that I have to play against her now is really sad to me. But I’m so happy for her in the fact that we both get to continue the sport we love. I think I’m more excited for her than I was for myself.”
Bell, on the other hand, didn’t expected to get drafted — by her own choice.
She estimated she’d finish her second stint with Team USA, which plays “pretty much the entire summer,” with about three weeks left in the NPF season. LSU coach Beth Torina said last week Bell told teams interested in drafting her not to do so because of her prior obligation to Team USA.
“When we got on the bus and they called my name, I was like, ‘What?’” the infielder said. “But I’m grateful that they saw something in me that made them still want to draft me.”
Bell didn’t rule out playing the last stretch of the season for the Pennsylvania Rebellion, which picked her in the sixth and final round of the draft.
If so, Andrews will have another former teammate to watch develop in the professional ranks, something she’s eager to do in the coming months.
She said the toughest adjustment from college to the pros is matching the heightened level of competition, but her advice to those making the jump is simple: Be yourself.
“If they stay in their shoes and stay the type of players that they are, they’ll continue to succeed,” Andrews said. “It’s really the same as college, just tougher competition every single day.”
Kloss, Simmons and Bell doubled the number of Tigers taken in the NPF college draft after Andrews and pitchers Brittany Mack and Rachele Fico were tabbed between 2012 and 2015.
But that’s not the number that most impresses Andrews.
“Out of all the teams in the nation, only 40 kids get drafted,” she said. “So the fact that there are three from LSU speaks volumes.”