GAINESVILLE, FLA. – The overnight rain halted and the Florida Gators were gathered for softball practice early on Saturday. There remained evidence of construction, as the final details of the $15 million renovation of Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium were being completed.
The indoor facility behind the left field corner was alive with hitters smacking softballs, including Kendyl Lindaman, a record-breaking slugger for two seasons with the Gophers and now a much-anticipated addition to the Gators lineup as a junior.
Tim Walton, in his 14th season of building a softball machine at Florida, was asked about the explosion in player movement that has taken place in his sport since the new rules for the NCAA’s “transfer portal” went into effect on Oct. 15. No longer do players need permission to transfer; they merely can put their names into the portal and can play in the next semester — as long as they are academically eligible.
“Coaches get an NCAA survey after every season and I responded to it for the first time,” Walton said. “My reason was to state that I didn’t think the new transfer portal was a good idea, that it had the potential to create a ‘Wild Wild West’ situation in our sport. And, in some places, that’s what has happened.”
Florida could have been one of those places. “I received contacts from people involved with over 20 players, asking if Florida would be interested in having the player transfer,” Walton said.
As did all college coaching staffs, Walton and his assistants went through the names of the players who had registered in that transfer portal.
“I talked to one player that first night,” Walton said. “Kendyl Lindaman.”
Lindaman’s intention to transfer was revealed publicly on Nov. 21, and her commitment to the Gators was announced on Dec. 7. Less than a month later, she was at Florida and starting to get ready for the season with the Gators.
“It’s still tough for her,” said Trent Lindaman, Kendyl’s father, from the family home in Ankeny, Iowa. “She misses her friends at Minnesota. But in her heart, she had to do what she felt was best for her softball career.”
Kendyl repeated exactly that on Saturday morning, as we talked for 20 minutes after her pre-practice hitting session.
Lindaman suffered a meniscus tear in her left knee on the first day of fall practice for the Gophers and underwent a surgical procedure on Sept. 11.
“I was rehabbing every day, not practicing, that gives you a lot of time to think,” Lindaman said. “The biggest thing for me was that I want to get to the next level in softball — whether that would be the national team, or in a professional league, or internationally.”
At its highest level, college softball is the same weather-driven, southern-western-dominated sport that is baseball. And the Southeastern Conference is a softball monster into itself.
Florida has been to the Women’s College World Series nine times in the past 11 seasons, with titles in 2014 and 2015. This preseason the SEC has eight teams in the nation’s top 14, led by the Gators at No. 5. The Big Ten has Michigan at No. 15 and the Gophers at No. 21.
A healthy hunk of the $15 million in-stadium improvements was devoted to a press box and TV platforms — all with ESPN in mind. The Gators will have 14 regular-season games on ESPN, ESPN2 or the SEC Network. Included on the SEC Network’s schedule is Florida’s matchup with the Gophers on March 20 in Gainesville.
“ESPN loves SEC softball,” Walton said. “Our game is played fast, moves fast, and we fit nicely in that two-hour window.”
The TV exposure is not what led Lindaman to Florida. It was to get the best from herself by facing the best competition in the country on almost a weekly basis.
Power was Lindaman’s trademark at Minnesota with a program-record 20 home runs in each of her two seasons. The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year also was a recipient of many pitch-arounds and intentional walks.
“I’m not looking for more power,” Lindaman said. “I want to be a more complete hitter. Honestly, my goal is to be one of hardest outs in the SEC.”
How does that happen? “One thing is not chasing pitches; you get pitchers into high counts, which they don’t like,” she said.
Lindaman caught the entire 58-game schedule for the Gophers last season. That won’t be the case with Florida. She and junior Jordan Roberts figure to alternate between catcher and DH. And the Gators’ lefthanded catcher from last season, sophomore Danielle Romanello, has been moved to the outfield.
Lindaman finished the interview and started walking a path toward a temporary meeting room in a trailer several hundred yards away. She was carrying a bat, putting it in her hands to grip on occasion.
Her frame in a practice jersey was a “V” from her shoulders to waist. This could have been Max Kepler, with wide shoulders and a muscular back, walking away at the Twins complex in Florida.
It is written often about male athletes, and there’s reluctance to do with female athletes, but this should be cited as a major source of this hitter’s power:
Kendyl Lindaman is chiseled.