Brenna Moss can remember standing in center field last summer during warmups for the Chicago Bandits choking back tears.
In the middle of a season that would earn her the Player of the Year award, Moss felt the lowest she had in all of her 25 years.
“I was trying not to cry for what seemed like no reason,” Moss recalled. “You only understand it if you’ve ever been there. I remember one of my teammates came up to me and asked if I was ok, and I just lost it.”
Moss was battling seasonal depression that she developed during the 2017-18 offseason.
A native of Bakersfield, California, Moss decided after her 2017 season she was going to stay in Chicago during the offseason and focus on her game.
She was still trying to figure out her full-time career at that point when Bandits general manager Toni Camelyn offered her a full-time position with the organization as a professional athlete and community outreach coordinator. Moss jumped at the opportunity.
Moss spent between five and six days a week in the gym, sometimes fitting in a workout during her lunch breaks. She worked on her speed and strength with the Bandits’ former team trainer Jason Domnanovich. When she finished in the gym, she would work on her hitting with her Bandits coworkers. That usually took place in the evenings when she’d convince one of them to throw soft toss to her.
As her game improved, her mental health took a hit.
“At first, it was exciting because it was almost like a winter wonderland,” Moss said. “Rosemont decorates the entire town with lights on every single tree. It was cool at first, but I ended up getting seasonal depression because of all of the gloomy days and being away from my family. It was rough.”
The depression carried into the 2018 season, and as Moss battled her lowest point mentally, she reached her highest point professionally. During that season, she batted .442, scored 38 runs, tied the league’s single-season hits record with 65 and set the Bandits’ single-season stolen-base record with 27.
Her success on the field combined with the support from her family and teammates helped ease the mental pain, and in the process, she developed a new motto — be the light.
“I have a tattoo that says ‘Be the light,’ ” Moss said. “I got to a point where I depended on so many other people to pull me out of my mental darkness instead of finding my own light. I realized that there’s more to life than where I was at.”
It’s this motto that carried Moss through another challenge in her career.
Despite her Player of the Year run in 2018, Moss was not one of the 41 athletes invited to USA’s selection trials in January.
“A lot of it’s about timing as is everything else in life, timing and who you know,” Bandits head coach and former Olympian Lauren Lappin said. “I think they had their core player pool who they already had a pulse on and it’s hard to crack into that. I know she’s on their radar.”
Now, Moss is staring at the opportunity she has been dreaming about since she was a little girl: A chance to prove herself to coach Ken Eriksen and the national team.
The Bandits have been hosting Team USA for a week-long training camp this week, which culminates with three exhibition games between the two teams.
Along with the national team’s presence in Rosemont, the selection committee will be attending Bandits’ practices and training sessions. Not only will team USA see Moss compete in a game setting but they’ll also get a look at how she trains and the work ethic she brings to those sessions.
”October 1-6 will be the trials for the 2020 National Team that will go to the Olympics in Tokyo,” Eriksen said. “Between now and then, the selection committee is continuing to take names of players besides the 18 that are here right now that they feel will be able to compete for a spot on that final grouping of 18. Brenna is on that list of observation talent.”
Even in her darkest moments, Moss has never questioned her talent on the field. She knows she’s one of the best every time she steps on the field.
She’s looking forward to proving that this weekend, no invite necessary.
“I’m just excited to play them,” Moss said. “I know I can compete and I’m excited to show them what I can do.”