A force on the field, Kristyn Sandberg has made a name for herself in the National Pro Fastpitch League since her debut eight years ago. A dual threat, she has hit over 40 home runs and knocked in 148 at the plate while being an impenetrable wall behind it. Her talented abilities have made her a pivotal piece to the Chicago Bandits.
However, as we recently discovered after chatting with her, Sandberg is more than just a talented softball player.
Sports were a central part of her upbringing. From softball to soccer, she tested her athletic abilities in any way she could, but despite her future in softball, hockey stole her heart early on. At the age of eight, she played on her first organized hockey team and never looked back until she played her last game in 2005.
“Softball was not actually my favorite sport, hockey was,” Sandberg told YSPN360. “I played both at a high level, but as I got older, my dad felt as though my abilities on the softball field would take me further, and offer me more opportunities in life, than hockey would…”
And while she’s a great softball player, she’s been known to tear it up on the ice from time to time—as you might have guessed when taking a
“I played my last season of travel hockey in 2005 and won the New York State Championship. After that, my primary focus became softball.”
Now, years later, she has picked up her stick again, playing for the Pigeons Hockey Club in Long Island. Unable to give up her love for the ice, she thrives on the thrill of the continuous game-play action it entails—remininscent of the games she watched her father play in adult hockey leagues growing up.
“Hockey is such a fast-paced game; no other sport comes close to it in terms of the speed of play. There’s non-stop action,” explained Sandberg. “Of course, some whistles briefly stop play, but it’s not like softball or baseball where the only action you may see for a period of time is the few seconds a ball is thrown to a batter.”
The fast pace and non-stop movement during hockey have proven to be an excellent way for her to stay in shape during the softball offseason, too.
“Hockey you can go for several minutes without ever having a stoppage in play. It’s a very physically demanding sport as well—which I think is one of the biggest things that drew me to play.” She continued, “You leave everything you have in you on the ice for 45-75 seconds, the physical battles that occur to gain possession of the puck, and then actually putting it in the back of the net.”
But with professional women’s hockey struggling to make its way in America, her father, Robert Sandberg, felt Kristyn’s future in softball held more promise.
She committed to play at the University of Georgia (2009-2012), where she excelled immediately, finishing her freshman year starting 57 of the 58 games, with nine homers, 26 RBI and 23 runs. And she never regressed, hitting .344, .303, and .358, respectively, while totaling 47 home runs. Her ability both at the plate and behind it led to her being drafted fifth overall by the USSSA Pride in the 2012 NPF Senior Pro Draft.
And at each stop during her time in the NPF—playing for the Pride, since-disbanded teams in Pennsylvania and Texas, and the Chicago Bandits (where she recently renewed her contract for the 2019 season), Sandberg has created something far more powerful than
“[Playing in the league] makes you grow as a player and as a coach in ways you probably wouldn’t if you weren’t around each other every day for three months. Being able to interact with players who come from different schools and played for a variety of coaches, who’ve learned the game in a different way and may have different philosophies than you, offers an incredible learning experience. My favorite part of playing, at this point in my life, is the countless friendships I’ve made along the way and the incredible athletes I’ve been fortunate enough to play with and against.”
It’s that type of mindset that doesn’t make it any surprise that Kristyn has invested countless hours during the offseason, too, helping teach and grow the game of softball. From her past stint helping coach at Syracuse University
It’s also that type of mindset that doesn’t make it any surprise that Kristyn still finds time to go surfing, hit the slopes, play video games, and practice her photography, making her not just an inspiration to the next generation of women athletes on the field or rink, but as someone who inspires them to go after whatever goals they dream of accomplishing.
Contributor: Whitney Worthen, YSPN360 Staff Writer