July 25, 2007
Orlando, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Remember when you were a kid and you dreamed of being a professional athlete? Stephanie Best is living that dream. The UCF softball volunteer assistant coach is in the midst of her third season playing in the National Professional Fastpitch league. Her team, the Washington Glory, is dominating the league with a 25-7 record and has a player on its roster leading almost every statistical category.
Best joined the league in 2005 after she became the first player from UCF to get drafted into the NPF by the New England Riptide. Following her stint with the Riptide, Best played the 2006 season with the Connecticut Brackettes organization, helping lead her team to the championship game.
Between coaching and traveling with the Knights and taking graduate courses in the spring, Best had to work her own training into her busy schedule. With the help of the UCF coaching staff and players, she could not have been more prepared. Following the team's practices, some days head coach Renee-Luers Gillispie would stay after to pitch batting practice to her former standout and some days assistant coach Beth Watson would stay behind to hit Best grounders in the infield.
Not only did the UCF coaches help Best physically, but they also helped her mentally. As an assistant, the Fort Mills, S.C., native has picked up the strategic side of softball and credits her coaching staff for making her a better player.
"I feel very fortunate to still be a part of the UCF softball program and the growth that it has experienced since I've been here," said Best. "Both coach Watson and coach Gillispie have been a huge part of my playing career and success. Their faith in me from day one has helped me get to the professional level I am at now and I owe a lot to them for helping me become the person I am."
Her hard work this past spring has more than paid off. Best is already on her way to accomplishing her personal goals that she set out to accomplish with the Glory. The shortstop is currently third on her team in batting average (.333) and sixth in slugging percentage (.556) and doubles (3).
"Personally, I would like to hit over .300 by the end of the season. But, mostly I just want to make sure that I contribute to the success of our team."
With her numbers on the rise, it looks as if Best is on her way to helping her team to the NPF Championship. With the Glory starting to pull away from the competition and a stellar squad that is only getting hotter as the season wears on, they are on the right track to fulfilling their team goal.
"Our team goal is to win the NPF Championship, and with the way the team has been playing so far this season there is no doubt in my mind that we can do it," said Best. "This is by far the best team I have ever played for. Our lineup is solid one through nine, and our pinch-hitters have been stepping up every time they get the chance. Even if I do not play every game, there is so much talent out on the field, and I have so much respect for my teammates that it is still a fun and exciting experience."
One of the most impressive things that Best discovered this summer was how far the NPF has come since she first started three years ago. In her first few weeks in Washington D.C. she got to be part of a professional photo shoot, which included hair and makeup professionals. The shoot was part of her team's promotional campaign and will be used to make posters to promote her team and the league as a whole.
"I am so impressed with how the league is growing and how they are trying to get our names out there," said Best. "The NPF is definitely taking strides in the right direction."