April 17, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. — March 31 was a big day for RT Cantillo. It was the day of the Rebels’ Choice Awards and the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch College Draft, which both started at 7 p.m. CT.
Her older sister, Chelsea, who played softball at Georgia, called her about five minutes before the draft and told her she would be following the draft and let her know.
Pick after pick passed, and after 11 picks had been made Cantillo turned her phone over and her attention toward the program, resigned to the fact she was not going to get picked.
And then, with 19 of the 20 total picks in the books, she had five new messages from her older sister, the last one informing her she was selected by the Chicago Bandits with the 20th and final pick of the draft
“I couldn’t really say anything because Rebels’ Choice Awards was going on, so I was just sitting in my chair excited,” Cantillo said. “I tapped by best friend next to me and said, ‘Be happy with me because I can’t right now.’ I couldn’t really celebrate as much.”
“We knew there was an interest, but you never know,” Ole Miss head coach Windy Thees said. “With only 20 softball players across the country getting drafted, it’s really tough to determine who is going to get picked by these teams. We definitely knew she was talented enough and we knew that she would be an asset to any team who chose her.”
Cantillo, who ranks in the top 10 in school history in 12 different statistical categories, including first in on-base percentage (.484), second in batting average (.362) and third in runs (121), will leave as one of the most accomplished players in Ole Miss history.
“There have been so many memories, just thinking about it,” Cantillo said. “It all starts with when I was 4-years-old hitting off a tee with a helmet that was too big for me, and it just kind of built from there. It’s a bittersweet thing. I’m getting my college degree, but at the same time, I’m going to start a new chapter, meaning I have to leave. I have made so many friends here at Ole Miss. It was my dream come true.”
“She’s been roaming center field every year for four years,” Thees said. “There will be something a little bit different when you look out and don’t see RT Cantillo in center field for Ole Miss softball. That’s going to be strange. She has left a mark that will last for decades. It’s not just the stats that she has put up, but she shows up and she wants to win and she works hard every game to be the best athlete she can be.”
The Santa Ana, Calif., native remembers when she thought she would never leave her home state, and when she was in high school just trying to get to college.
Now, she’s less than a month away from the first day of practice with her pro team on May 15 and the season opener two weeks later on May 29. The new chapter for Cantillo also includes a coaching position at a Division I school, where she will pursue a master’s degree in sports administration.
“I’m looking to have fun and constantly be learning new things,” Cantillo said. “It’s going to be the same concept but maybe a different way to do it or a different way to explain it because I want to coach and have my own organization when I’m older. If anything, I’m expecting to learn new coaching styles or a different way to go about changing something, or even how to communicate with kids.”
Since the summer after her sophomore year, when she worked at Georgia’s softball camp, she has wanted to coach younger kids, and she wanted to do it where the sport is not as developed. Both playing professionally and coaching collegiately, Cantillo said, help her in this goal.
“Even when I was in a slump, or had the worst possible day, whether it was softball or otherwise, whenever I would go over and coach these kids, it was like falling in love with the sport all over again,” said Cantillo of coaching younger kids out of Hernando, Miss. “It reminds you of why you started playing, so I would love to coach little kids.”
For Cantillo, it has been a dream come true, from Ole Miss, to the start of her professional career, to the start of her coaching career, as she continues to give back to the sport that has given her so much.
“It’s probably the best feeling ever,” Cantillo said. “I would talk about what I want to do with my roommates. When I met one of their friends, they introduced me as, ‘This is my roommate RT, and she wants to change the world with softball.’ I never realized that I sounded like that, but it means a lot to me because that’s what it’s done for me. It’s given me so many opportunities. It changed my life for the better, and that’s why I want to do so much with it.”
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller