WCWS Notebook: Alabama's Montana Fouts Has Rock Star Status
By Edwin Stanton,2023-05-31
OKLAHOMA CITY — Montana Fouts was in her bedroom and just got off the phone with Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy. She was weighing her options on committing to the Crimson Tide.
“I was pacing in my bedroom, like a 12-year-old does whenever they're talking to Patrick Murphy,” Fouts said. “He was talking to me and said, ‘If you come here, you're going to be a rock star.’ I was like, ‘Wait, I want to be a rock star.’
“The rest is history.”
History indeed. Fouts has cemented her legacy as one of the best softball players to ever put on a Crimson Tide jersey: All-America honors, SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year, SEC Freshman of the Year, gold medalist with Team USA at the World Games. The list goes on.
She solidified that legacy in last week’s super regional. Fouts pitched in all three games, won two of them and helped send Alabama to the Women’s College World Series. She did all of it with a hyperextended knee. She even took a line drive off her injured knee in the super regional finale.
But don’t think for a second she’s worried about her knee this week, on college softball’s biggest stage.
“Pain is temporary. I'll feel that some other day,” she said.
It’s that kind of mentality that has given her rock-star status. She’s one of the game’s top money-makers through Name, Image and Likeness, and she’s the nation’s leader in strikeouts with 317. She's had some celebrity encounters, including country singer HARDY.
Everyone knows the name Montana Fouts.
“We go to practice, so we're walking out of this ballroom, and all of a sudden, I hear, ‘Hey, Montana,’” Murphy said after both spoke to a group of Alabama supporters. “We stop in our tracks. We turn around. It’s Nick Saban. 'I love to watch you pitch.' He says nothing to me. Montana got the kudos from Coach Saban. It was really a cool moment for me because I think he does watch us all the time, especially from his living room.
“She is a rock star. Wherever we go, it is wild. It's the Beatles coming to town. It's Michael Jordan getting off the bus. That's the best way to describe it.”
No. 1 fan
Madelyn Daigle is a 6-year-old girl who's a big Alabama fan. She’s also going through chemotherapy treatments for cancer at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
The fight she is enduring, all while keeping a positive attitude and cheering on the Crimson Tide, has served as an inspiration for the Alabama players.
“We love her dearly,” Fouts said. “She draws on cleats, she sends them to us. She's an artist. She's very beautiful inside and out. She loves softball, loves to watch. We always know we have our biggest cheerleader watching us.”
Daigle got to meet some of her favorite Crimson Tide players, too.
“Ashley Prange actually went and visited her in the hospital, which is cool,” Alabama’s Ally Shipman said. “She's decorated cleats. We get pictures of her praying for Alabama softball, which is the cutest thing ever. She's 6 years old, and she's out there praying for Alabama softball.
“She's been an inspiration for the team. When you think about it, we could lose all the games in the world, but the perspective of her and her fight and her faith are really what has motivated us to get this far."
No more fruit
Fouts has a few rituals before she sets foot in the circle. She gets dressed the same way, her bullpen session has to end with a strike, her hair has to be worn a particular way, and she wears the same pair of cleats from the start of the season until the end.
The last time Fouts was in Oklahoma City for the WCWS in 2021, she ate mangos before every game. That was the year she pitched a perfect game.
Mangos are out this year. Actually, some of her superstitions are out, too.
“I’m trying to stay away from some superstitious and just focus on playing softball,” she said.
Fouts said she’s alternated between white and black cleats this year, and will probably stick to one pair this week.
"I think I'll do white this week if I do good with them," she said.
On the right track
Last year, the WCWS outdrew the men’s College World Series during the championship series.
The rise in popularity of softball is still climbing, and it’s in part to changes made here at Oklahoma City, according to Murphy.
“I think, number one, this facility,” he said. “We would come here and there wasn't a warning track or a permanent fence. We complained for years and years and years. Caitlin Lowe, I remember, hit her chin on the fence, half of it fell off. It was on national television. It did not look good.
“Now it's a permanent fence, padded by a professional company all the way around. The dugouts, bathrooms in the dugout, huge. There used to be a port-a-potty in the dugout or you'd have to run to the bullpen. The whole atmosphere is just so much better.”