NEW YORK -- Growing up in Clearwater, Fla., A.J. Andrews never thought she'd get to where she was Friday. Not that Andrews lacked confidence, anything but. It's just that, as Andrews put it, "a lot of young girls are scared there is nothing after" college softball.
"College is the last step for a lot of girls," Andrews said.
But that's beginning to change. Andrews is one of the top players in the National Pro Fastpitch League, the only professional women's softball league in the U.S. She became the first woman to receive a Rawlings Gold Glove Award on Friday, when she was honored at the glove company's annual award ceremony at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.
Known for making acrobatic catches in right field for the Akron Racers, Andrews is a former star at Louisiana State who played in the 2015 College World Series.
Now in its 58th year, the Rawlings Gold Glove has been awarded to 323 players, all male Major League Baseball players. Until now.
"It's an amazing honor to be here. Just the fact that Rawlings really supports women's sports and supports softball, it speaks volumes," Andrews said. "The significance is immeasurable, honestly. Just the strides softball is taking in getting acknowledgement and recognition."
A speedy, left-handed-hitting outfielder, Andrews was the seventh overall pick in the 2015 NPR Draft after earning herself three All-SEC honors at LSU. She finished her college career among school leaders in triples (20), walks (116) and stolen bases (97), while routinely making highlight-reel catches in the outfield. That didn't change in Akron, where Andrews literally ran through a wall this year to make a play.
Plays like that earned Andrews her historic honor, which she hopes will serve as inspiration for other young softball players.
"I think it's so honorable that Rawlings is the first one to make that push to really put NPF on the map and motivate people to watch softball," she said. "Softball is so much fun to watch. I'm really excited to be that pioneer and to pave the way for girls to have Rawlings Gold Gloves. The honor is awesome and a great accomplishment."
Andrews was excited to meet the Major Leaguers honored alongside her Friday, especially fellow Floridian Kevin Kiermaier and fellow right fielder Jason Heyward. As for the award itself? Andrews said she's going to add more gold to it, and purple too, to honor her former college team.
"I think this will give people hope," Andrews said. "This is a historic moment. I'm really relishing in this and I'm really proud."