Cal Softball: Tatum Anzaldo & Haylei Archer Set To Make Pro Debuts

They will be teammates with the Coastal Bend Tidal Wave of the Women's Professional Fastpitch league
Former Cal star Tatum Anzaldo
Former Cal star Tatum Anzaldo / Cal Athletics

Former Cal softball teammates Tatum Anzaldo and Haylei Archer are about to begin an adventure as professional athletes.

Fresh off a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament with the Bears, they have signed to play this summer for the Coastal Bend Tidal Wave, an expansion franchise in the Women’s Professional Fastpitch league.

They will fly to Texas this weekend, begin practice on Monday and are scheduled to play their first game on June 20. And they are excited.

They also acknowledge this is something of a leap of faith, because they will arrive in Corpus Christi this weekend with virtually no details about their new venture.

Anzaldo, a three-time All-Pac-12 first-team selection, called her involvement a “100 percent” leap of faith.

“I wish I had more answers,” she said. “We’re going to come out, we’re going to play we’re going to have fun. We’re professionals and we’re going to act like professionals.” 

Archer, who won 11 games this season as the Bears’ No. 1 starter, thought she might end up playing this summer in Austria. Instead, she heads to Texas, eager to see what unfolds.

“We don’t really have many details on what’s going on. But honestly, it’s kind of exciting.” she said. “This has been my dream for my entire life. I’m going to take it as an opportunity to truly see how far I can take this.”

Here’s what we know about the the Tidal Wave and the WPF: 

— There are two teams returning from last season, which was the league’s inaugural year: the defending champion Texas Smoke, an Austin-based team owned by former major leaguer Brandon Phillips, and the Smash It Sports Vipers of Oxford, Alabama.

— The Tidal Wave is one of two new franchises from the Longhorn State, along with the Texas Monarchs. Former Cal pitcher Sona Halajian, who spent last season at Central Florida, has signed with the Monarchs.

— There reportedly will be two franchises in Mexico, although no one seems to know where they are located. That includes Tidal Wave coach Blake Miller, a one-time Oregon assistant coach, who understands the Mexican teams will play their home games in Lubbock.

— The season begins June 20, with teams playing Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday each week for seven weeks (a total of 28 games) before the top two finishers meet in a championship playoff.

— The Tidal Wave will play its games in Aviator Stadium, formerly a minor league baseball park in neighboring Robstown, which in a matter of weeks has been flipped to accommodate softball. The facility has 20 suites and seats 7,000, according to Miller. “It’s just awesome,” he said.

— Players are paid by the week, and the scale is modest. “Softball, unfortunately, even if you’re the best of the best, you’re not making big money and can’t make a living off of it,” Archer said.

Miller also knows this about the team’s two Cal signees: “I’m so excited about those two.”

Miller, who previously was head coach at Virginia and Texas A&M Corpus Christi, was living on an island off the gulf coast and out of coaching when he was approached to run the Tidal Wave.

He spoke with Cal assistant Kailee Cuico, who played for him at Oregon, and she talked up Anzaldo and Archer.

“It kind of just came out of nowhere,” Anzaldo said of the opportunity. “He reached out to me and Archie and it kind of just took off from there. I still don’t know where we’re staying yet. I just know I’m going.”

Miller, who spent part of this week at Vero Beach, Florida, scouting players at a WPF tryout camp, still is assembling his roster.

Anzaldo and Archer will have some talented teammates. Already signed are infielder Rylen Wiggins, who hit 11 home runs and was an SEC All-Defensive pick at Texas A&M this spring, and her teammate, first baseman Trinity Cannon, who batted .349 with 18 home runs. A&M advanced to the NCAA Super Regional round.

Outfielder Mya Stevenson hit 71 career home runs at Marshall and Ole Miss, and outfielder Grace Chelemen had a .341 average over five seasons at Marshall. Cassandra Valdez was NAIA Pitcher of the Year this season after going 30-1 with an 0.53 earned run average for NAIA national champion Our Lady of the Lake.

Along with Athletes Unlimited, a Chicago-based outfit with four teams, the WPF is the sport’s only professional option in the U.S.

Archer sees this season as a step toward possibly something bigger for the game. “I think softball has taken a huge spike in viewers and attention the last couple years and I absolutely think it’s on the right track,” she said. 

“I’m super stoked,” Anzaldo said. “It felt like a lot in the beginning. Now that I’ve been able to be home and rest and think on it, it re-motivated me to go back out there and do it again.”


Published |Modified
Jeff Faraudo

JEFF FARAUDO

Jeff Faraudo was a sports writer for Bay Area daily newspapers since he was 17 years old, and was the Oakland Tribune's Cal beat writer for 24 years. He covered eight Final Fours, four NBA Finals and four Summer Olympics.