While watching the college softball World Series on television as a child, Michelle Mazur wanted to be just like those players.
"That was a huge motivator for me when I was little," said the Fremd softball slugger. "Now I'm inspired to become the best student/athlete I can be."
She has succeeded quite well at that.
So well, in fact, that one day in the future she will have a chance to be like those players she watched on TV.
Mazur has made a verbal commitment to Georgia Southern, the defending Southern Conference champs who were 40-22 overall and 20-2 in the conference under first-year coach Annie Smith.
The Eagles hope to become a perennial top 25 Division I team under Smith.
But Mazur sees much more than softball in her future Statesboro, Ga., home.
The school has the 20th-ranked nursing program in the country and strong business, communications and education programs, all the main interests of Mazur.
The Fremd senior also calls it an incredible campus with great facilities. Softball was simply the icing on the cake.
"GSU will challenge me in all areas and has a beautiful campus and the Eagle Nation spirit is contagious," Mazur said. "And I hear that football 'Game Days' are a huge tradition with six national FCS championships."
Mazur discovered her future college after being recruited by other southeast colleges.
"After seeing how beautiful the campuses are and how great the softball is in that area, I knew I needed to find a college that fit my criteria in the southeast," Mazur said.
"My travel coach (Jim Abbot of New Lenox Lightning Gold) started to engage southern schools on my behalf.
Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern were among a few schools who watched Mazur at the ESPN Sun Classic tourney in Orlando last November.
"After coach (Annie) Smith saw me play, she asked me to attend the Florida State Elite Camp (Dec. 7-9)," Mazur said. "She was working the camp and asked if I would come see the Georgia Southern campus."
So the next day, Mazur took the three-hour trip north to visit.
"After showing me around and introducing me to players, coach Smith offered me the scholarship," Mazur said. "I was introduced to academic advisers and I was shown the tremendous Eagle Nation spirit (six national FCS Football Championships), stunning campus, and facilities. I was sold and already proud to be an Eagle."
But for now, she is still proud to be a Viking.
"The Fremd team has been like a family," Mazur said. "I am going to enjoy every moment with them this spring."
After playing the outfield for Fremd as a sophomore, Mazur moved to first base last spring.
Fremd coach Jim Weaver said that enabled the Vikes to put their best lineup on the field.
"Michelle has done a tremendous job," Weaver said after Mazur's junior year in which she hit .445 with 25 extra base hits, including a team-high 57 hits.
She also had 43 RBI, 44 runs, 13 doubles, 4 triples and 8 homers, which was just one shy of the single-season school record set by her teammate Megan Hubbard last season.
"It was the second year in a row that she put up special numbers offensively," Weaver said.
"I've been extremely blessed to have really good recreation, travel, and high school coaches and teammates," Mazur said. "I have to admit some of my fire and passion comes from the desire and satisfaction of competing nationally with my New Lenox Lightning Gold team, against the very best players and teams in the country and getting our fair share of wins against teams from southern California, Georgia, Florida and Texas."
Mazur got her first taste of softball when she was about six years old playing catch in the backyard with her father Bob.
"I remember playing whiffle ball with that giant red bat and I would hit the ball," Michelle said. "My mom and dad would have to field it and try to tag me out before I made it around the bases.
"Later that summer, I got my first real bat and glove for my birthday and started playing Palatine softball (in second grade she joined the Palatine Youth Softball program)."
Mazur always set high goals for herself and found excellent instruction.
"Then I put in the work and went on to have a ton of fun playing with my teammates," she said. "I can't think of anything else that can be more fun right now."
Now at Fremd, later at Southern Georgia -- and perhaps one day on television.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.