St. Charles North senior Emily Brodner traveled far and wide in her search for softball exposure before deciding the Land of Lincoln isn’t such a bad place to stay.
On Monday, Brodner committed to play college softball at Illinois, a far cry from her long-maintained plans to branch out when it came time for college.
She said she’s “really surprised” she wound up opting to remain near her roots.
“All along I wanted to play in warm weather and play in the South, play in the West, but in my visit to Illinois, I realized that Illinois was the school for me,” Brodner said. “Once I got there, I knew that was the place I was supposed to go. I knew even though I’m in cold weather, it’s the place I should go to and the place I want to be at.”
Brodner even played this summer for an Arizona-based travel team, the Arizona Hotshots, building off a connection she made years ago while attending a softball camp at what she said was her dream school – Arizona State.
“I knew the coach [Keith Householder] from when he was younger, and he said if I ever wanted to play on the West Coast or in the South more, I’d be able to try out and have spot on the team so I decided I’d do that and play on the West Coast, play some of the California teams and play more and better competition,” Brodner said.
But Brodner took a recent trip to Champaign, and came away enthused about the Illini coaching staff, which scouted Brodner during a tournament last month in Colorado.
Brodner was a Second Team Chronicle All-Area catcher as a junior for the North Stars.
She becomes the third member of North’s team to commit to a Division I, in-state program. Senior pitcher/outfielder Sabrina Rabin is a longstanding Northwestern recruit while junior first baseman Abby Howlett committed to Northern Illinois last week.
So North’s usual starting battery – Rabin and Brodner – project to be future Big Ten rivals, though Rabin likely will shift to the outfield at Northwestern.
“It’s going to be different because I used to play with Sabrina when I was younger and now I play with her in high school, and sooner or later we’re going to be playing against either other in college,” said Brodner, who is leaning toward studying business at Illinois.
The North Stars graduated no seniors off last year’s Upstate Eight Conference River championship team. Brodner looks forward to a potentially banner senior season, and now she also can anticipate adding to the family’s ranks of Division I athletes.
Her older brother, John Brodner, plays college baseball at Wright State.
“We both talked about how it’s hard to make a decision but once you know you love a school and have great coaches, that’s the place for you,” Brodner said.
Saving money on airfare just proved to be an added bonus.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.