Lauren Bay Moves To The Next Level

She's excelled at the collegiate level as a member of the Oklahoma State University softball team. Then she competed for the Canadian national softball team that finished fifth at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Now Canada native Lauren Bay is ready to take her skills to the professional level.

Bay, a 23-year-old southpaw, will make her professional debut with the expansion Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch League. Bay and Jennie Finch, an Olympic gold medalist and former Arizona All-American, will anchor a pitching staff that will be the envy of the new league.

"I'm really excited," Bay said. "There are great opportunities here. Chicago is a great sports town. So I am really, really excited."

Her girl-next-door smile hides the fierce competitor within -- Bay can flat out pitch. As a Cowgirl at Oklahoma State, she was one of the most feared pitchers in college softball. Bay was named the Big 12 Player of the Year and Oklahoma State's Student-Athlete of the Year in 2003. She was also a three-time First Team All-Big 12 player. Bay holds the strikeout record at Oklahoma State and is in the top 10 of every statistical category.

"It was a good time at Oklahoma State," Bay said. "Coming from Canada, I didn't know what do expect. The college life was truly amazing. Each year was a stepping stone for me to become a better ball player. The whole experience was positive."

It was the pitching skills she honed at Oklahoma State that caught the attention of the Canadian national softball team. Her selection for the 2004 Summer Olympics was an easy one.

"Lauren is a hard throwing lefty with a devastating change-up," said Softball Canada head coach Mike Renney. "She has the ability to shut down any team. Over the past few years, she has steadily improved to the point that she is now regarded as one of the top young pitchers in the game worldwide."

Those accolades have become the norm for the talented pitcher, who began playing softball at the age of 12. Bay owes much of her success to her family.

"Ever since I was little, they've always been there," Bay said. "They've done some amazing things for me to help me get where I am. So my mom and dad have been one of the biggest support systems in my life."

Of course, she can't go anywhere without someone asking about her famous brother, Jason, an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"I am extremely happy for him," Bay said of her brother, who was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 2004. "Seeing what he did, I think that's great. We're really close. I'm his number one fan. We talk a lot on the phone."

Bay refuses to rest on her laurels. She's training hard in preparation for the start of the softball season, which begins June 2.

"Before the season, I lift weights four times a week," Bay said. "I do lots of running and stretching. I like to run - even if it's just to jog - at least six times a week. When the season ends, I take some time off from pitching. Starting in January, I started to throw again."

One of the more interesting training regimes she began this year was working with Motion DNA, an Arizona-based company that specializes in motion-capture technology and biomechanics. She was tested by Motion DNA founder Zig Ziegler, who worked closely with her to improve her pitching form.

"I had an injury to my drag leg in 2003," Bay said. "Since then, I've been struggling to get back to where I was before the injury. I'm slowly getting back to that level. To be able to see what my body is doing from an objective point - with Motion DNA's analysis - is very beneficial. I can see why my leg was being stressed and why I hurt it. Now I understand and I can see instant feedback. I'm better able to fix what I need to on the field. Zig and his staff are really into flexibility, which helps me throw the best way possible. They focus on things that are basic, but sometimes the little things make all the difference."

The sky is the limit for this talented pitcher. She hopes to play for the Canadian national team again during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

"It was such a positive experience," Bay said of the 2004 Summer Olympics. "It was the experience of a lifetime. Every time I think about it, I re-live it. Being around all those great athletes was amazing. And I love to travel. We're lucky because sports can take you places you otherwise wouldn't be able to go."

Bay is hoping her professional career will thrive and the interest in the National Pro Fastpitch League will skyrocket.

"I think the league will do really well," Bay said. "The competition and talent are outstanding."

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