Two recruits found home in Norman, Oklahoma

Interview and Story by Emma Breer

When looking across the field to your opponent’s dugout, do you ever think that your future teammate could be sitting over there? Most people say “No”. I’m sure Kai Minorand Lexi McDaniel weren’t looking at each other at the 2023 Alliance Fastpitch Championship Series (AFCS) with those thoughts. With their recent commitments to Oklahoma University last September, I’m also sure neither would’ve imagined their motivations to be so similar. 

Minor and McDaniel are both in the 2025 graduation class. Minor is a centerfielder for Coach Mike Stith and the OC Batbusters, the reigning back-to-back 18U National Champions. McDaniel is a middle infielder for Coach Ryan Taylor and Aces Fastpitch, the 18U National runner-up. Both young women have proven themselves to be talented athletes, but there’s more to a player than what can be displayed on the field. 

One thing we can’t see is why they originally chose to play softball.  

“My parents introduced me to softball and I didn’t like it at first,” Minor said. But “when I met my best friends…as well as the life lessons that follow, I grew to love the sport.” Minor grew up watching talented collegiate softball players. Slowly, she developed a deep desire to be like these athletes, a desire that still thrives to this day. As she’s grown, this desire acquired multiple layers; it isn’t just to be like these athletes, but also to understand “this is more than just a game,” something she will value now and after she’s done playing. 

McDaniel grew up playing many sports, but it was clear which one she was passionate about. “Softball is the sport I love,” McDaniel said. She says she was blessed with the opportunity to join the Aces Fastpitch organization at a young age and learn from some of the best athletes in the country. She wanted to “become someone who impacts the game,” and is grateful that as she’s advanced her skills, she’s made memories that “are unforgettable.” 

As stated before, both Minor and McDaniel competed in the AFCS National Championship Series – the final two teams in the highly competitive National Championship. Both athletes thought the experience was amazing and they loved the competitive atmosphere.  

“Win or lose, the competition was top-notch,” Minor said. She said the tournament gave her confidence as a player after facing loads of high-caliber pitching and being forced into high-pressure situations. McDaniel said it built trust and an inspiration to fight. “The drive to play your role for your team is heightened.” She said. “It develops the mental side of the game.” 

They also enjoyed the college-like feel of the games they played throughout the week.  

“It is the most exciting tournament that resembles the (Women’s College World Series),” McDaniel said. Both enjoyed the WCWS vibes provided in the details, competition, and pressure. “It prepares us for the WCWS because of the similar format,” Minor said. 

The recruiting process can get complex. Though both athletes chose Oklahoma, they have similarities and differences in why they pursued this option. 

When Minor started her process, she was nervous. She wasn’t sure who would call or what opportunities would be available. When she received calls though, “it was a bit overwhelming.” She was prepared for conversations with coaches and approached them open-mindedly and hoped to learn about each program. Coach Stith noticed how “she was focused on finding the best place for herself,” all Minor had to do was push past the nerves of choosing the wrong school. Once the fear was gone, she focused on what her core values were and what she wanted in a school, both athletically and academically. 

McDaniel went to many camps and schools ever since she was twelve years old. She visited many different schools, gauging what was important to her throughout this journey. Deep down, though, she always had a program she loved and a program that had always been her favorite. In her heart, she knew there wasn’t much of a decision to make, especially after she “fell in love with everything about the university” on her official. 

Of course, each athlete pointed out different details that influenced their decisions. Minor was drawn to the “meticulous preparation and thoroughness” while McDaniel felt the “culture is absolutely everything.” 

Minor and McDaniel got to their final decision in different ways, but what they probably didn’t realize was a couple of small details that drew them both toward Oklahoma. A key feature for both of them was the coaching staff and their “growing young women in their faith.” The welcoming nature and their desire to know these young women as people was a detail both these athletes loved. As soon as both thought that “Norman felt like home,” it was a done deal. 

What can be seen for Minor and McDaniel isn’t a guaranteed fact. However, both of these athletes still have two more years to compete at the AFCS and to continue to improve their skills. Coach Stith mentions how “hard work opens doors,” and seeing two athletes who have spent their lives hoping to reach a desire to be the best player possible in a sport they love, it can be safely said that something exciting is to come for these two young athletes. Who knows, maybe these two may find themselves taking the field again as opponents in the National Championship Series. The next time they do face off in the AFCS, they’ll know that their paths will soon lead them to being teammates in the future.  

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