The past year has been quite the whirlwind for Taylor McQuillin.
“Oh, yes,” she said with a knowing laugh. “One hundred percent. It’s been super crazy but 100 percent worth it.”
Soon, things are going to get even more exciting for McQuillin, a left-handed pitcher out of the University of Arizona. She finished her senior year with the Wildcats in the spring of 2019 after helping lead the program back into national prominence. In her senior season, she went 24-8 with a career-low ERA of 1.52. She earned first-team All-American honors and was named one of 26 finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year.
McQuillin was drafted sixth overall by the Cleveland Comets of National Pro Fastpitch and she continued her success there last summer. She’s also continued her success on the international level.
A native of Mission Viejo, Calif., McQuillin has Mexican heritage from her mother, and she’s proud to represent Mexico in international competition.
In the team’s Olympic qualifiers, McQuillin pitched four scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts, helping Team Mexico qualify for the Olympics for the first time.
“It actually is super awesome,” she said. “Now that I’m on Team Mexico, I’ve gotten to learn a little bit more and dig a little bit deeper. It’s made me appreciate the little things more and made me appreciate being a part of Team Mexico and having the heritage and the background and the family lifestyle. I’m just super grateful for Team Mexico.”
It's made me appreciate ... having the heritage and the background and the family lifestyle.Taylor McQuillin
When the rest of the world stopped late in the winter to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, this 23-year-old traveler paused to spend time with her family in Tucson.
“I got to spend some really deep quality time with them, especially in quarantine,” Mcquillin said. “That was kind of nice at first because I hadn’t really had a chance to see them a whole lot once I left for the pro league last summer. It has definitely been a huge adjustment, I think, for everybody in the softball world who are so used to playing, playing, playing. Now we’ve had all this down time. It’s kind of crazy. When is the last time we’ve had this much down time during a softball season?”
Come August, McQuillin and many of her peers will get to fire things up again as Athletes Unlimited kicks off its inaugural softball season just outside of Chicago.
“Honestly, I had looked into it and started hearing things on social media,” McQuillin said. “It really just intrigued me, the different layout and the setup and how into women’s sports they are and how they want to strive to make female athletes a little bit more noticed and grow the game of softball. I think that’s something that softball has been trying to do for the last decade now.
“Just being able to get the professional level on a higher platform and more noticed. I think Athletes Unlimited is doing everything they can and has gone above and beyond to do what they can to achieve that. That’s something I’m really, really interested in and super passionate about.”
The winning pedigree McQuillin brings is sure to have followers of the new league intrigued as well. She helped lead the Wildcats to the Women’s College World Series for the first time in nine years in 2019.
“I think in general it’s just being able to be on a team that allowed Arizona to get back to the (College) World Series and be a powerhouse and prove that Arizona is still one of the top teams in the country,” she said. “I think that my senior season was my best season, and I truly believe it was because of the team that I had on the field with me and in the dugout. Everybody was bought in. We had an amazing junior and senior class that was able to lead our team to where we needed to go, whether that was the players on the bench or the players on the field.”
The success McQuillin has enjoyed is even more remarkable considering she has been legally blind in her left eye since birth.
But she does not consider it a “handicap.”
“I’ve never really viewed it as a handicap just because I’ve dealt with it my whole life,” McQuillin said. “I was born with Duane Syndrome in my left eye. That started the process of a whole bunch of surgeries. I had five surgeries up until the age of 5 or 6 years old on my eyes.
“I’ve never known what it’s like to have perfect vision out of two eyes. I grew up playing sports with this as my normal. It’s definitely a story to overcome adversity, I guess, is what people say.”
The future seems to have much to hold for McQuillin. She’s looking forward to the upcoming Athletes Unlimited season, both for the team and individual benefits.
“One of the coolest things about the points system is that it’s not just about the individual,” she said. “There are individual points, but it’s about the team as a whole. They really did a good job of finding a way to make it about the players individually but also about the teams that they’re on … That’s something you don’t really see a whole lot. I’m really interested to see how this points system works out in everybody’s favor.”
As she looks forward to getting back to some normalcy and playing softball later this summer, McQuillin said she hopes the public will take away several things from watching the competition in Athletes Unlimited.
“I think Athletes Unlimited has done a great job of incorporating all of the players, and every player knows they can get out there, they can get seen, their voices can be heard,” McQuillin said. “That’s the coolest part of it right now even though the league hasn’t started yet. We all feel like we have voices and we all feel like we’re a part of something bigger in the league other than we’re just the athletes in it.”