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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘We need Mady’: Shocker softball’s ‘hype-woman’ speaks on positivity, legacy

Madyson+Espinosa+dances+on+the+field+after+a+teammate+hit+a+grand+slam+in+a+Wichita+State+game+from+April+2023.
Kristy Mace
Madyson Espinosa dances on the field after a teammate hit a grand slam in a Wichita State game from April 2023.

In the dust of the softball diamond, where the cheers and chants of Shocker softball fans and team members merge, there’s a player wearing a cowboy hat who stands out — and not just for her southern style. Senior Madyson “Mady” Espinosa, number 13 on the Wichita State softball team, is known not only for her prowess on the field but for her inspiring nature and vibrant personality when it comes to encouraging fans and teammates.

“This is my home”

Softball has been a part of Espinosa’s life since she was 5 years old. She immersed herself in weekend games, after-school practices and regular sessions in the weight room. It was during her high school softball career that she attended a training camp with Wichita State Head Coach Kristi Bredbenner. Espinosa knew right then and there that there was no other softball program for her than Wichita State’s.

“Wichita State is the only place I wanted to go,” Espinosa said. “I don’t think there’s a better experience than Wichita State … This is my home. This is my family.”

Bredbenner said Espinosa had a lot to learn when she was recruited, but her persistent positivity and can-do attitude made her an asset early in her college career.

“There were some tough times her freshman year — laps and all that jazz,” Bredbenner said. “But Mady is a pretty special individual. She’s selfless; she’s loving; she’s caring. I think, at the end of the day, we need Mady … on this team.”

From there, her role as a leader — and a hype woman — on the team was solidified. When team morale was low during games Espinosa would run up and down the field, riling up the Shocker softball fans. During timeouts, she’d show off her dancing skills by doing “the worm,” much to the amusement of her fans and teammates. 

“In the dugout, she’s a high-fiver … she’ll lead the cheers,” Bredbenner said. “She finds the right times to get things going. 

When a Shocker softball player made a great play, Espinosa would triumphantly wave her cowboy hat in the air. Bredbenner said Espinosa’s entertaining energy has made her popular with Wichita State’s fans.

“If you talk to people that watch Shocker softball … everybody always asks about the girl in the cowboy hat,” Bredbenner said. “And to me that speaks volumes to the person that she is.”

Espinosa said fan interaction “is everything” to her. From being recognized in public to signing autographs after games, Espinosa said that softball supporters “make it worth it.”

“The little girls will come up and be like, ‘I want to have the girl with the cowboy hat sign my shoe,’” Espinosa said with a laugh.

These encounters mean even more to Espinosa, especially when her 13-year-old niece, whom Espinosa inspired to play softball, is in the stands and can see Espinosa’s connections with the teammates and fans firsthand. 

“I made sure I got her a signed poster and everything,” Espinosa said. “And she’s like, ‘I’m gonna hang it up in my room.’ She thinks it’s so cool that her Aunt Mady is playing at the highest level surrounded by such wonderful people.”

Rounding up the girls

During a trip to Houston, Texas, in 2022, the softball team found themselves stranded after their travel bus broke down “in the middle of nowhere.” 

Espinosa had joked with her peers that they were going to “round these cowgirls up” once they arrived in Houston, and was excited to get back on the road. It was at a nearby gas station that Espinosa laid her eyes on a cowboy hat. And while she didn’t purchase it, Espinosa said the “idea was already in my head.”

Upon their arrival to Houston, Espinosa walked downtown to find herself a cowboy hat for the upcoming games. The rest is Shocker softball history.

“It just like, set off. Everybody was like ‘It’s bringing the vibe; it’s bringing the energy,’” Espinosa said. “Coach doesn’t even let me travel without it.”
While her “lucky charm” has taken many forms over the last few years, from a cowhide tan model to her current “Flying W” embroidered hat, its message has remained the same.

“It speaks for the underdog. It speaks for the sisters. It speaks for the women,” Espinosa said.

Passion for positivity

Espinosa  said her passion and energy on the field is just one small way she can give back to the program that has done so much for her.

“I want to look back and say that I gave everything I had,” Espinosa said. “This program has given me so much I feel like I could never give back as much as they’ve given to me.”

As Espinosa nears graduation, she’s begun preparing for a new position in the workforce. While Espinosa doesn’t have any career callings yet, she knows she’ll be an asset wherever she goes.

“I think that in any job, anybody can do (with) some positivity,” Espinosa said. “They can use some energy. They can use some hyping up.”

Espinosa plans to continue building the Shocker softball legacy. She said she’s preparing to buy her last cowboy hat for the softball season — this one, she’ll leave behind to inspire the next generation of Shocker softball players.

“They’re gonna say ‘Hey, you remember that little girl that put on her cowboy hat?’ and that’s good enough for me,” Espinosa said.

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About the Contributors
Allison Campbell
Allison Campbell, Editor in Chief
Allison Campbell is the editor in chief of The Sunflower. Campbell is a junior pursuing a journalism and media production degree with a minor in English. Campbell hopes to pursue a career in writing or editing after graduation. They use any pronouns.
Kristy Mace
Kristy Mace, Photo Editor
Kristy Mace is the photo editor for The Sunflower. She's majoring in psychology. Currently a junior, Mace hopes to go on to get her Ph.D. and become a neuropsychologist. She also plays for Wichita State's bowling team and does professional photography aside from The Sunflower.

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