DJ Sanders learned a lot about softball growing up in Columbus and playing the sport in the state of Mississippi.
On Saturday, Sanders will give back some of what she learned to players in her hometown when she holds lessons and a camp from 5-7 p.m. at New Hope High School. Sanders also will hold individual lessons for players Saturday and Sunday at the school.
“It is cool people at home want to do this stuff,” Sanders said. “The fact they have been this invested and supportive up until now is really special to me. I think it is really cool get to do camp in my hometown.”
Sanders will work the camp with her father, Donnie, and her sister, DeShuni, a former standout at New Hope High who went on to play at East Mississippi Community College and at Union College in Tennessee. The sisters will work with players on hitting, baserunning, and infield and outfield skills.
DJ Sanders said she hopes to have additional camps in the area or in the state. She said she would rather do a lot on a select number of areas rather than a little on many areas so she can try to give the interested players the attention they deserve.
In fact, Sanders will be part of the staff at another camp Oct. 6-7 at the Magee Sportsplex. For information about that event, call 601-953-3655.
Sanders is coming off her first season with the National Pro Fastpitch’s Chicago Bandits. She played in 28 games following her senior season at Oregon and had a .306 batting average with seven home runs and 15 RBIs. Sanders, who was selected with the fourth pick of the fourth round, said she is signed to a three-year contract, so she looks forward to taking what she learned in her initial season and improving as a pro.
Sanders capped her college career earlier this year by playing a key role in Oregon’s trip to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Sanders transferred to Oregon from Louisiana-Lafayette in November 2017 following the firing of coach Mike Lotief. Sanders went on to hit .281 in 63 games (62 starts) for the Ducks, who finished 53-10. Sanders was second on the team in home runs (16), RBIs (51), slugging percentage (.614), and total bases (105).
Sanders said she will continue to work at camps while she completes her degree at Louisiana-Lafayette. She said she likely will finish in the spring, which will help her prepare for her second season with the Bandits.
“It was OK,” Sanders said of her first year of pro ball. “I am hoping the next two years will be better. I got a little homesick. … Playing wise, toward the end I did a little better, and I did well enough to get my incentives.”
Sanders said there wasn’t a big adjustment performance wise from the highest level of Division I to pro ball. Still, she said everyone in the NPF is an “elite athlete” and there is no break in terms of the quality of pitching hitters face. She also said players fail a lot more because everyone is good in the NPF. As a result, she said she had to stay positive and learn to let things go and bounce back quickly.
“If you don’t it can spiral out of control really fast,” Sanders said. “Learning how to deal with struggles more was one of the biggest differences.”
For more information about Sanders’ camp Saturday, call 662-889-8008.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.