SEATTLE -- Danielle Lawrie is calm, at least for her. She still floats between feisty and fearsome, but she's doing her best to hide her trademark competitiveness right now. She smothers it with reflection, introspection and pride, extreme pride.
As she discusses her eventful year and remembers her sterling college career, Lawrie appears comfortable facing one challenge she has yet to conquer.
By nature, the former University of Washington pitching sensation is never satisfied. That personality trait used to be fueled by insecurity and a fear of failure that made her so abnormally superstitious that she carried a block of wood in her softball bag so she could knock on it frequently. Then she turned it into a level of intensity and mental focus that enabled her to become a two-time national player of the year.
Now, after five years that included a 2009 national title, three All-America honors and a perspective-altering hiatus to play for Team Canada in the 2008 Olympics, Lawrie doesn't have to prove herself anymore. She's a legend, one of the best and most compelling athletes to wear purple and gold. The past two years, she helped Huskies softball transcend its sport and capture the city's imagination.
Because of all this success, because of the personal growth she experienced in college, Lawrie has begun professional life with a kind of self-assuredness that already has served her well.
"I look back, and I don't think there's any more work I could've put in," Lawrie said. "I think I'm going to love just watching the Huskies play and following how they do from afar. I really am over the fact that I'm done with college.
"I really think it was because we won (the national title in 2009). As a team, to be the first in Washington history to do that, you feel such a sense of accomplishment. These girls are my best friends. I don't have unlimited eligibility, as much as I wish I did. I hear about people graduating and being so upset that they're done. Not me. It was my time."
Moving on quickly was necessary, considering Lawrie's schedule. Days after the Huskies were eliminated from the Women's College World Series last June, she and teammate Jenn Salling traveled to Venezuela and helped Team Canada win the bronze medal at the softball world championships.
Then Lawrie turned pro and joined the National Pro Fastpitch league, the only professional women's softball league in the United States. Typical Danielle, her team, the USSSA Pride, went on to win the championship.
Lawrie has since signed a two-year contract with the Pride, which is based in the Orlando, Fla., area. With that deal, as well as endorsements with companies like Federal Way-based athletic equipment company Baden Sports, Inc., Lawrie figures she'll make enough money to be a full-time pro player. She can also get paid to host clinics and give private instruction to young athletes. She won't be rich, but as a 23-year-old supporting only herself, she's doing fine.
Her plan is to move to Florida early next year and continue playing for the Pride and the Canadian national team. When she's not competing, she hopes to do some television work; she says she would love to be part of ESPN's softball coverage in the future. Down the road, she might pursue playing in Japan, where elite players can earn six-figure salaries.
"I'm making an all right living for me, individually," said Lawrie, who graduated from UW with a sociology degree. "I'm not going to make $450,000 or more like young MLB players. But I'll be able to pay the rent and be OK. Being someone 23 years old, for the next three or four years, I'd like to try to help grow this league and promote it and try to be a Jennie Finch type. Now that she's retired, we need more people like that, to show off softball and let everyone know how good of a game it is."
Six months ago, Lawrie sat in a media room in Oklahoma City, lost a fight with tears and said of her college career, "I'm leaving at peace." She cried not just because the favorite Huskies had been upset in the Women's College World Series, not just because the end came so abruptly. She cried because she had barely slept for weeks while chasing a second national championship and endured the most trying mental challenges of her life. Her tears trickled down her dirty, weary face.
"I wanted to win, obviously, but right now I'm at peace and I'm happy," she said.
A half-year later, she brings up the memory of that emotional June afternoon. She lived up to her words. She is at peace, at last.
Considering all the success she had while fighting against doubt, there's no telling how great she can be now that she clearly understands and appreciates her talent.