Some dreams on delay for pro softball players

Emily Tropp

Audrey Rendon has two dreams — to be a pro softball player, and to be a mom.

The Rockford Thunder infielder has reached one, but like the rest of her teammates, her dreams of starting a family will wait.

“When the time comes, then it’s time for my family,” said Rendon, 23, who is planning a Sept. 27 wedding. “We don’t plan on having children right away. But sometimes you just never know.”

Rendon is in her second season with the Thunder and a constant force at third base. The four-year starter for Louisville hit .281 as a rookie last year. She’s batting .250 and is second on the team in stolen bases with four.

Rendon will become the only member of the Thunder who is married when the season ends. She’s engaged to Jason LaFountain, a catcher in the New York Yankees’ minor-league system.

“Him being a player himself, he’s supportive of her career, and that is very helpful,” said Thunder general manager Aaron Moore.

“A lot of our players have long-term boyfriends, and most of them are athletes, so they understand what it’s like.”

Most National Pro Fastpitch players are in their early 20s and single. Starting a family is a distant goal for them.

“Eventually I’d like to,” Rockford center fielder Kristen Zaleski said. “Career-wise, it’s something that’s hard to do and still play ball. But some people do it. I’m just in no rush.”

None of the current Thunder are moms. They play games from May through August, and they travel across the country. It’s not exactly a family-friendly career.

“That’s one of the interesting parts for us,” Moore said. “It’s also a reason a lot of teams do strictly one-year deals with players. That way, you’re not locking yourself into something that you can’t fulfill. For us, if the players want to get married or have children, we’ll definitely still give them a chance to play for us if they’re still in shape.

“For Audrey, as long as she wants to play, she’ll have a place with us. And it’s nice because her fiance knows the life of an athlete.”

What will change immediately for Rendon is her jersey. She said she’ll take her fiance’s name, and LaFountain will be on her back next season.

“I love to play ball,” Rendon said. “It’s been my life for a long time. Now I’m about to get married, but I do plan on continuing to play. I’ll absolutely play as long as my body allows me to.”

Rendon’s fiance has had more time to follow her career now that his is over. He underwent his fourth elbow surgery last offseason and said he will focus on getting his teaching degree from now on.

“It’s time for me to move on,” LaFountain said. “My body is wearing down a bit, and I’d like to be able to play catch with my kids someday. It’s in the near future, hopefully. We’ll just discuss it all and cross those roads when we get there.”

Moore said that most players leave the game either for a family or for some other career by the time they’re 29. Thunder infielder Jamie Davison, 26, said she’s getting to an age where she’s thinking more about interrupting her career for a family.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, actually,” Davison said. “I think you can still be able to play. People can do both. It’s just you need to be planning for certain things at certain times.”

Emily Tropp can be reached at (815) 987-1385 or