May 12, 2014, LAWRENCEVILLE (ISN) – There was a slogan, not so many years ago that there are 420,000 NCAA student-athletes and most will become a professional in something other than their respective sport.
For recent Rider University graduate Kehli Washington (Lulea, Sweden/New Rochelle), her ‘real job’ plans and the use of her Psychology degree will have to be put on hold as she recently signed a professional contract to play softball in the Netherlands, beginning this summer.
“I will be playing for the ‘Gryphons’ located in ‘s-Hertogenbosch also known as Den Bosch in The Netherlands which is an hour south of Amsterdam,” said Washington. “The ‘gryphon’ gets its name from the famous ‘golden’ dragon-statue, which is located in the city-centre high above the traffic. The gryphon is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. Besides playing on the First Team, I will assist the coaches and be present as an instructor for the U19 and U15 teams. During my stay I will be involved in practice sessions with their youth softball players (and their coaches) and in clinics they organize for youth softball players in general.”
“Kehli is one of the hardest working players I have had the pleasure to coach,” said head coach Tricia Carroll who recently completed her 20th season. “She comes from a terrific family who have supported, pushed and have been by her side every step of the way. I know she is ready and up for the challenge.”
A Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference First Team outfielder as a junior and a MAAC preseason First Team honoree this season, Washington finished her Rider career with a .295 average in 183 games and her 172 hits are 13th best on the all-time Bronc hit list.
Also a member of the Swedish National Team for the past six years, Washington used those contacts to extend her playing career with this professional opportunity.
As a centerfielder/second baseman Washington helped the Swedish team place seventh in the European Championships this past summer, an improvement over the 11th place finish in 2012.
Team Sweden played in the same pool as Italy, Poland, Ukraine and France and finished second in its pool, reaching the final round of eight teams. In that round the Swedes lost 1-0 to Russia and 3-1 to Austria, but defeated Spain 6-4 in the battle for seventh place.
“It has always been my dream to play professionally,” Washington said. “This is what I’ve worked for my whole life. It feels even better to be following in my dad’s footsteps playing professionally overseas. He (Kent) played basketball professionally is Poland and Sweden. There is no better feeling than being able to live out my dream.”
The club that Washington will play for has over 300 members and the First Team (ladies fast pitch) is playing in the Dutch TOP League. The First baseball team is playing in the Dutch League in the Second Division. The Juniors (U19) softball team is also playing at the Top League level in the Netherlands. Gryphons has a number of senior teams , junior teams, youth teams, peanut teams and recreation teams playing baseball (men) and softball (ladies).
Washington scored 84 runs for Rider and had 47 stolen bases in her Bronc career.
“It was fun to watch her develop as player, student, and leader,” said Carroll. “She matured so much during her time here at Rider. She was really committed to bringing her best every day for herself and the team. Her hard work and commitment has certainly paid off. For the majority of softball players the journey ends at graduation. She gets to live out this dream which is awesome. I know she will be successful in her pro career and when that ends she will be successful in her field of study.”
“I used to be hung up on statistics,” said Washington who saw injuries limit her to just 42 games in 2014. “Being injured I realized the love I had for the game which I had lost sight of when trying to have the best stats. I wanted to leave a different type of legacy and I wanted to be remembered as a great teammate, person and athlete. I think people should never lose sight of the fact that sports are just sports.”
And even more than just a sport, now a professional career in The Netherlands.