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Trading blue for red: How Tori Meyer continues to make a difference

Tori Meyer against SEMO, Photo Courtesy of Bradley Athletics

In her first game as a Bradley Brave, graduate student Tori Meyer did something that isn’t seen often on the diamond. 

“I was just going out there to have fun and kind of just wanted to continue what I was doing in the fall,” Meyer said. “And you know, [it’s] my last year, and I was like, ‘What if I hit for a cycle?’ I have no doubts in myself, I just gotta play the game.”

About as common as pitching a no-hitter, hitting for the cycle is one of the rarest occurrences in baseball and softball alike.  Hitting a double in the first inning, a single in the second, a home run in the fourth and a triple in the sixth, this was the moment Meyer had officially introduced herself.

However, just a year ago, Meyer didn’t feel like she was making a difference on her former team. 

From rivalry to obsession

Growing up in Barrington, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago, Meyer got her start playing T-ball with her brothers, sparking a competitive spirit that still burns on.

“I just wanted to be better than my brothers, we’re always competing,” Meyer said. 

What started as a sibling rivalry soon turned into an obsession with softball. 

“Softball, it kind of was an avenue where I could just be myself and be all weird and loud and cheer for my teammates and just be positive,” Meyer said. “Softball is an aggressive sport, and I always played sports growing up and typically as a little girl you’re not really taught to be aggressive and stuff like that, but I liked it.” 

During those first few years of recreational softball, Meyer spent a lot of her time watching professionals. The Chicago Bandits, a former professional softball team based out of Rosemount, Illinois, cemented Meyers’ desire to commit to the sport. 

“I would go to those games all the time with my teammates, and then I wanted to be more committed and involved in softball so that I could do travel softball,” Meyer said. 

In addition to her early showings of prowess on the diamond, Meyer also demonstrated potential on the hardwood.

“I had a lot of fun with basketball, watching the UConn women be so successful, like in the past, I wanted to play for them,” Meyer said. “I just got recruited first for softball.” 

Basketball isn’t too foreign to the Meyer household as Tori’s father, Corey, represented both Colgate and UConn in the 1980s. 

“None of my brothers played basketball so I was like the only one who was following in his footsteps a little bit,” Meyer said. 

Meyer’s father didn’t just inspire her to play basketball, but was also a supportive figure to Meyer and her brothers throughout the years. 

“He would never miss my games or miss my brother’s games. He was just super duper involved,” Meyer said. “He kind of fostered that competitive environment between my brothers from a very early age.” 

Harvesting a level of competitiveness that only got stronger as the years went on, Meyer was named an All-State center fielder after her four years at Barrington High School. 

“There’s always somebody working harder than you, so you better get your stuff together,” Meyer said. “With my weightlifting and conditioning, and extra lessons just to push me over. Make me … one percent better than the next person.” 

Tori Meyer runs the bases for DePaul, Photo via Tori Meyer/instagram.

An hour away

Meyer didn’t have to travel very far to find her next home. 

Just shy of an hour from Barrington, Chicago was her next destination. Joining an older DePaul squad with many established names in the lineup, Meyer found a way to learn and grow while also fighting her way into the starting lineup.

“It was just like the day in and day out things that I learned from them,” Meyer said. “If you’re 15 minutes early, you’re late. If you’re 30 minutes early, you’re on time, you got to be early and you got to be prepared.”

Absorbing everything that she learned with the Blue Demons, Meyer managed to retain it and always went back to those early lessons she learned from her first coach.

“He kind of instilled that work ethic in me and respecting the game, respecting the people who are there working on the field, always saying thanks to them and just anybody who’s helping you in your softball process,” Meyer said. 

Becoming a full-time starter her junior year, Meyer started in 134 games for the Blue Demons, hitting .353 with 10 home runs and 74 RBIs. 

The outfielder even got opportunities in the circle, until an injury took it away. 

“My junior year I was playing at Loyola and I was on third base and the catcher was trying to pick me off so I dove back in and I tore my labrum in my shoulder, so then that kind of put an [end] on my pitching,” Meyer said. “I love pitching and if I could still do it today, I would.”

After four seasons in the Windy City, Meyer knew she wanted to pursue her masters in Professional School Counseling while continuing her softball journey. She just wasn’t sure she wanted to spend it with the Blue Demons.

Graphic by Rodrigo Perez.

One last chance

During her final year with DePaul, Meyer felt that the team dynamic had shifted and that the program was headed in a different direction, a direction she didn’t want to be a part of. 

“I just wanted to feel like I was going to make a difference somewhere, and I didn’t necessarily feel that way at DePaul anymore,” Meyer said. “I would say I was making an impact. It was just my teammates were not very receptive and just like selfish. So it’s kind of hard to win when you have people who are only playing for themselves.”

“It’s hard when people are praying on your downfall, you know, I just felt that that’s where the program was going,” Meyer added.

In the portal, Bradley head coach Sarah Willis was the first one to contact Meyer about the potential of bringing the former Blue Demon to Peoria. 

“The coaching staff and Tori, we had a really good connection over the phone [and the] visit went well,” Willis said. “So it was a no-brainer, especially since she had one year of eligibility left, so it seemed like a really good fit.” 

After losing their former leader and center fielder Grace French last season, the Braves needed someone with the experience that could guide this young team, even if it was only for one season. 

Meyer’s impact was felt almost immediately as she led off in all three games of the UNLV series, hitting for the cycle in the process. Despite having to get used to her new group, the graduate student has already made big strides with her teammate on her left.

“We talk through a lot of things together because I play outfield with her, so we’re constantly talking through the game while it’s happening,” sophomore outfielder Lauren DeRolf said. “I did some research on her before, but after meeting her I knew she was going to be a good leader for our team.” 

Apart from her performances at the plate, Meyer provides a sense of focus that only comes from experience. 

“She’s someone who keeps everybody else focused, and who makes sure we’re all moving forward on the same page and not getting off topic,” DeRolf said. “And she shuts down any negative [comments] which is really nice.”

Making the most of her last dance as a D-1 softball player, Meyer isn’t too fixated on her stat sheet, but more on doing the best she can with the time she has left. 

“It’s just a game at the end of the day, but I want to kick some ass and show people what Bradley softball has to offer,” Meyer said.

Tori Meyer and Lauren DeRolf against Indiana State, Photo Courtesy of Bradley Athletics
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