Taylor McQuillin completed her college career a month ago, but the former Arizona Wildcats ace still hasn’t had much time to reflect on it.
The morning after the Wildcats were eliminated from the Women’s College World Series, they were on a plane back to Tucson, where McQuillin would stay for less than 48 hours before she had to catch another flight to Chicago to make her National Pro Fastpitch debut for the Cleveland Comets.
“I didn’t really have time to process a whole lot,” said McQuillin, who led UA to its first WCWS appearance since 2010. “Once the season’s over, you have to move on to something else. For me, my moving on was playing pro softball.”
And the way McQuillin describes it, it has been a “quick” but seamless transition into the next chapter of her career.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity that I get to play with such amazing people,” she said. “My teammates here are great, I love them all. They really helped with the transition. We’ve had a couple girls coming in and we’re all new to the situation so they’re trying to figure things out as they go as well.”
Originally from Southern California, McQuillin had never been to Ohio before joining the Comets, but she said she feels at home in the Midwest—even if “home” is just a collection of hotel rooms.
“Obviously when we’re on the road we stay in hotels, and when we’re in Cleveland we stay in a hotel/condo environment,” McQuillin said from a Florida hotel after a game against the USSSA Pride. “So it kind of feels like we’re living in hotels all the time, but I think that college softball really prepared me for that and being gone every weekend, every other weekend.”
McQuillin has a 2.97 ERA in a league-high 37.2 innings so far in her rookie season, showing why the Comets selected her sixth overall in the April’s NPF Draft. McQuillin has struck out 32 batters, second-most in the NPF, a six-team league in which every lineup is stacked with fellow All-Americans.
“You’re playing the best of the best, and you’re playing people that have been around for 14, 15 years,” McQuillin said. “And it’s different especially in your rookie season coming out and playing people like Kelly Kretschman. They just said today that this her 14th year in the NPF. so it’s crazy to see. The talent is very diverse. The age differences could be minor, they could be large.”
The Comets usually play five or six times a week, packing roughly 50 games into a three-month schedule. Combine that with the 62 games McQuillin endured at Arizona, and it has taken a toll on the hard-throwing lefthander.
“I joke around with the people in Arizona that I feel like I’m a 22-year-old living inside an 80-year-old body right now,” McQuillin laughed. “And then coming straight into the pros, having two to three days off, it’s been rough. I think my body’s definitely taken a hit, but I think the best part about it is that I’m still waking up every day, getting my workouts in, finding people to do things with, going and playing softball. And for me it’s learning how to push through everything that my body’s endured from 60-plus games in this past season and then coming and playing another 48 to 55. But this is what I worked for this whole entire year.”
The grind will continue in late July when McQuillin will join the Mexican National Team as it heads to Peru for the Pan American Games. In late August, she will be in Vancouver for a week of Olympic qualifying games.
Mexico—which could be adding former UA ace Danielle O’Toole to its pitching staff—has a solid chance of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. About three-quarters of the Comets’ roster consists of Mexican national team players, so the NPF season gives them a chance to build some chemistry before they play on the international stage.
“I’ve dreamt about it since I was a little kid,” McQuillin said of playing in the Olympics. “Just being able to get a chance, even if it wasn’t for USA, to represent the other side of my family with the Mexican National Team and being able to try to compete for an Olympic spot and go to the Olympics in 2020, that’s huge for me just to be able to say that I was on an Olympic team.”
In the fall, McQuillin will return to Tucson and join Pima Community College as an assistant pitching coach, an opportunity that arose because of her familiarity with head coach (and former Wildcat) Rebekah Quiroz. The two often crossed paths at games and camps in Tucson.
“That was just an opportunity that I thought that as long as I’m in Tucson, it will be an opportunity for me to build and grow and kind of build my resume and kind of start out as a coaching route and see where I could end up,” McQuillin said. “And I think that with the team that they have coming in, and the goals that they have coming in this year, they’re projected to do really well. So I’m hoping that the girls really take in a lot and I get to learn from their coaching staff as well.”
As a bonus, returning to Tucson means McQuillin will get to watch Arizona’s seniors close out their collegiate careers.
“They’re are really close friends of mine and I love to watch them succeed,” McQuillin said. “So for me that was a big decision... other than I’m fresh out of college, don’t have a lot of money, Tucson’s a very cheap place to live, and that’s where my family resides.”
At one point, McQuillin wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue with softball after college. She considered pursuing a career in nursing or neonatal pediatrics instead. But as her senior season approached, she realized she wasn’t ready to step away.
“I didn’t really know what my life was going to be like about softball and I didn’t really want to find out,” McQuillin said. “And I think that being able to have the opportunities that I have come across, .... this was a good way to transition out of college and build my life.”
McQuillin said it’s hard to believe that she won’t get another chance to wear an Arizona uniform. She expects that realization to hit her hard when she returns to Hillenbrand Stadium as a spectator next season.
Nevertheless, she has high hopes for the 2020 team, which just added Oklahoma star pitcher Mariah Lopez, McQuillin’s former travel ball teammate.
“Arizona softball has some amazing players that are still there right now, amazing players that are coming in, new transfers that we’re super excited to see, and I can’t wait to watch this team do amazing things,” McQuillin said. “And next year, I really hope that I’m at the World Series watching them compete for a national championship.”