Alex Booker Signs with Chicago Bandits
June 17, 2014
Rosemont, Ill. - Just weeks after being named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team, former Illini outfielder Alex Booker signed a professional contract on June 16 to play for the Chicago Bandits of National Pro Fastpitch (NPF).
"I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to extend my softball playing career with the Chicago Bandits," said Booker. "This experience will not only push me to compete at the highest level, but will also teach me many new things about the game by playing alongside All-Americans, Olympians, and the nation's top players. It is an honor to be able to play on the field with some of the athletes I have admired since I started my softball career. I am very fortunate that the Bandits franchise believed in me to succeed at this level and am ready to continue my love of the game. Thankfully, I still am able to wear my favorite color, orange!"
A four-year starter at left field for the Fighting Illini, Booker was one of the final cuts at the Bandits' open tryouts in May, but her performance impressed GM Aaron M. Moore, who offered the Illini standout a contract for the remainder of the season on June 16.
"Alex made a strong impression on us at tryouts, but at the time, the timing wasn't right with some needs we had to address immediately," said Moore. "But she has stayed close to the Bandits working in the office as a game day intern and she is ready for this opportunity.
"She brings us a little something different off the bench in terms of speed and in this league that is important. Having RT (Robin Thompson) a couple of seasons ago was a big reason we won games late and we're hoping Alex has the same effect."
Booker completed her illustrious Illini career this spring, graduating with the sixth-best career batting average (.327), fifth-most stolen bases (44), and eighth-best on base percentage (.388) in Illinois history. The speed demon posted an .846 stolen base percentage, good for third-best all-time at Illinois, including going 32-for-34 over her final two seasons. Booker improved at the plate every spring, batting over .300 in each of her final three seasons, including a .371 mark in 2014 to go along with a .515 slugging percentage. Booker made history on Feb. 23, 2014, becoming the first Illini and just the second softball player in Big Ten history to hit for the cycle, leading the Illini to a decisive victory over Creighton and earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors. That weekend she also kicked off the second-longest single-season hitting streak in Illinois history, hitting safely in 15 straight games from Feb. 22 to March 26.
A 2013 All-Big Ten Second Team and Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection, Booker has demonstrated the most consistent play of an Illini outfielder in program history, ranking fifth all-time and tops among outfielders with a career .988 fielding percentage, including back-to-back perfect seasons in 2013-2014 and seven outfield assists as a junior.
"Booker loves to play the game, and I am very excited that she is now going to join the Bandits and get the chance to continue to do that," said Illini Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "She will be playing alongside Illini great Danielle Zymkowitz and many of the game's best, which will allow her to elevate her game as well."
Booker will find a familiar face on the Chicago Bandits, joining two-time NFCA All-American second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz '11 on the Bandits' roster. A 2011 teammate of Booker's, Zymkowitz is in her fourth season with the Bandits organization, hitting .400 with a .550 slugging percentage in 11 games this year. Booker is the sixth member of the Orange and Blue to join National Pro Fastpitch, as Shanna Diller, Jenna Hall, Lindsey Hamma and Angelina Mexicano all spent time in the NPF as well.
The Bandits play their home games at the Ballpark at Rosemont in Rosemont, Ill., and conclude a four-game home series against USSSA Pride tonight at 7:05 p.m. To keep up with Booker and Zymkowitz's careers with the Bandits, visit www.chicagobandits.com or follow the Bandits on Twitter at @Chicago_Bandits.
About the Chicago Bandits
Since 2005, the Chicago Bandits have been members of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. Located in Rosemont, the Bandits provide an opportunity for female fastpitch players to further their careers at a professional level, and the roster has included such names as Jennie Finch, Stacy May-Johnson and Monica Abbott. The two-time NPF Champions play at The Ballpark at Rosemont, the only stadium in the country built for a women's professional team. The 2014 season will be the Bandits 10th season in the NPF.
About National Pro Fastpitch
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Nashville, TN. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names of Women's Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women's Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women's fastpitch softball since 2002.