Montana Fouts steps back into the circle with AU Pro Softball

Savanna Collins
Jun 12, 2024

When her morning alarm goes off, Montana Fouts no longer goes to a 6 a.m. lift like she has the past five years. Instead, she heads out to start her day on her farm in Grayson, Kentucky.

Fouts has pitched on the biggest stage in front of more than 12,000 people at the Women’s College World Series but lately, her audience has been her two cows, two goats, four dogs, and 22 chickens.

After graduating from Alabama in 2023, Fouts competed with Team USA at the Pan American Games but didn’t sign to play professional ball in the United States or abroad. One of the brightest shining stars in college softball took a year off to work on her other dreams: starting a farm, putting on camps and clinics, and being back in the town with the people she loves most.

No one aside from the 12-year-old softball players at her lessons has seen her pitch in the past year.

Until now.

Stepping into the circle again

It’s AUX Softball Opening Day, and Team Leach is preparing to play their second game of a doubleheader. Captain Aubrey Leach has slated Fouts as the starter.

Her accessories in the circle include a gold bow to match her uniform, her face mask, and a camo brace on her left leg.

She says the brace is more for confidence than anything, one of the only remaining indicators of the ACL tear she suffered during Alabama’s conference tournament game against Arkansas in 2023.

But it’s probably the last thing you notice once Fouts got going on Monday night. Her command of pitches left hitters off balance, allowing her to cruise through four innings giving up three hits and a sole run while striking out four batters.

If there was pressure of hype to live up to, Fouts sure didn’t show it. In her postgame interview, she said she’s taking it pitch by pitch.

“I feel like it’s like that for everybody no matter what position you play,” Fouts said. “I’m gonna take it pitch by pitch and trust my teammates.”

Her first “W” in the win column as a pro. Any questions about Fouts’ pitching transferring to the pro level were answered on night one.

Taking a step back

Within the past year, Fouts had a bigger question to ask herself: Who is she outside of softball?

“I feel like the longer that I was in Tuscaloosa, the more I understood what Coach Murphy was just trying to get me to understand the whole five years – that softball is what you do, it’s not who you are,” Fouts said.

Months and months without competing, Fouts continued to return to what her Crimson Tide head coach had been asking her all along. As she rehabbed her knee and trained, it was her core value.

“I figured it would be hard just watching it on TV and not necessarily doing it whenever it’s what you’ve done for so long. But honestly, I was just really thankful to have been in that spot in the first place – and I’m excited that I still get to continue to play – but also really dialing in on other things that I love to do, not softball.”

Fouts lives just 20 minutes from her friends and family in Grayson. It’s a small town of about 3,000 people and only a handful of stoplights. She gushes when she talks about her home and the people she spends time with. It’s clear the title of “friend” is dear to her. She’ll soon add the title of “Aunt”; her sister is expecting a baby. And “farmer” too except with the caveat of “intro farmer.”

“I’m learning, so I don’t know if I can quite take the title yet,” Fouts said.

For the past year, this has been her; she’s taken time to herself and stepped back from being a player.

“Honestly, I feel like I gave everything I had to Alabama, I mean every last ounce of it. I did everything I could for the five years. So I feel like I earned the year to kind of just heal my body in a way,” Fouts said.

Before heading to AUX, Fouts attended a church picnic with her best friend Abby. They have been friends throughout middle and high school. She’s one of Fouts’ tight-knit friends with whom she’s shared her early softball dreams.

College, Women’s College World Series, pro. “I would write it down all over the place,” Fouts said.

One of those places was the wall of a building she used to practice in as a kid – a piece of wall she now owns. Someone recognized Fouts and her inscribed dream before the building was torn down and saved it for her.

“I signed my name in big print, drew one of the ugliest softballs we’ve ever seen, and the date of 2010 or something like that,” Fouts said.

Along with All-American, Honda Award winner, and national team member, Fouts can now check off that third dream and add professional softball player to her titles.

“I obviously had some injuries, but to go home, take a step back and just find out why you love it again…”

That’s why she’s at AU now.

Stepping intentionally towards her purpose

It’s day two of the AUX season, and Team Leach is facing Team Wiggins for the second day in a row. The captain switches things up, starting Payton Gottshall who Wiggins’ lineup had yet to see. Gotshall allowed two hits and an unearned run in 2.1 innings.

This time, Fouts enters in relief. Team Wiggins doesn’t cross home the rest of the game. Fouts threw 4 and 2/3 innings sitting down six batters this time allowing just two hits.

“I feel like now I’m just playing because I love the game,” Fouts said. “That’s really what’s transformed in my softball career. I truly love it more than I ever have.”

Facing the best hitters in the world, Fouts recognized the caliber of her competition at the plate but wasn’t weighed down by the gravity of it. She had other softball players on her mind – the ones who came to see her.

“This morning I was praying on how I could be useful today and I was thinking about all the little girls that were in the [autograph] line yesterday and I was like, ‘I want them to see somebody that can compete really hard and then go out there and give them the biggest smile they’ve ever seen.’ So that was my goal today, just because I knew we were going to do it. I know it sounds silly. I mean, of course, I was locked in each pitch, but that was my motivation today.”

Despite what her serious expression in the circle may convey, “I’m just having fun now,” she said. And as she scribbled her signature on dozens of softballs, posters, and visors in the autograph line, she smiled ear to ear.


Savanna Collins is the Senior Reporter at Athletes Unlimited. You can follow her on Twitter @savannaecollins.

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