Ashley Thompson’s love for the game started young. “Thompsy-Girly,” as she is known by her fellow teammates, did not originally have plans to play intercollegiate softball — let alone for a Division I team like BYU.
“I started playing when I was 8 years old,” Thompson said. “I didn’t really think it was going to go anywhere, but after entering high school and playing competitively, I realized that I could go further.”
Thompson, a senior, certainly had an impressive high school career, finishing with a total high school game record of 86 wins and only six losses. In addition, Thompson holds various records in her home state of Washington, including the state career strikeout record with 1,117 and the career home run record of 51. She also led her high school to three straight 1A titles and her club softball team to the ASA Gold National Championship tournament.
Since the start of her collegiate career, Thompson has dominated on and off the field. In the 2017 season alone, her final season playing for BYU, Thompson was added to the Fast Pitch News 2017 Preseason Top 50 NCAA Softball Hitters list, recorded the second-most stolen bases in a game by a BYU player against Miami and had a season-high four RBI at Santa Clara.
Thompson was the only player to start all 59 games for BYU this season. She hit eight home runs and drove in 41 RBIs while batting .339 and stole 16 bases this season. Her 43 career stolen bases ranks fourth in BYU history.
Additionally, Thompson was named to the 2017 West Coast Conference Softball All-Academic Team, which recognizes student-athletes’ pursuits of academic excellence.
“She is a tremendous athlete,” said coach Gordin Eakin. “She is a focused and determined player and she does not like to lose — individually or as a team. She has been a very mature athlete for the entire time she has been here and is so self-driven.”
Thompson has thrived as a true blue Cougar. However, growing up without a religious background, Thompson didn’t even know about or consider BYU as an option for college until she transferred to Connell High School.
“I really didn’t know who the Mormons were, but there were a lot of them at Connell High School,” Thompson said. “I heard about BYU from my friends, and so I ended up looking into it.”
Thompson explained she was attracted to BYU for a few reasons, namely the coaching staff, the beautiful sports facilities and the standards and values the school upholds, which are similar to Thompson’s personal values.
“I think the transition to BYU was easy, even with the religious environment,” Thompson said. “The people here are more like me than they probably would have been at any other school because of the standards and values that I hold. Everyone was so welcoming, it was just easy to get along with people here.”
With a friendly smile, an infectious laugh and an easygoing attitude both on and off the field, Thompson has had a positive impact on many of those she’s come in contact with during her time at BYU. One of Thompson’s teammates and best friends, McKenzie St. Clair, says everyone on the team loves and respects Thompson.
“Ashley is an extremely impactful leader on our team,” St. Clair said. “Not much of a verbal leader as she is an action leader, she leads by example, which is huge and is always a team leader.”
Thompson attributes part of her success to her supportive family — specifically her parents, Ron and Shelley.
“My mom taught me to never settle and to be the best person I can be,” Thompson said. “My dad has been doing this with me from the beginning. Growing up, he had played a little bit of baseball but (softball) was kind of a learning experience for both of us.”
Based on the most BYU softball games attended, Thompson’s biggest fan may be her dog, Gunner, a Shih Tzu breed. Thompson jokes he is the team’s unofficial mascot because of how much time he spends with her teammates. Thompson said Gunner is one of three things she can’t live without, along with Netflix and her planner.
As BYU’s season ended after a loss in the NCAA tournament last week, Thompson may take her softball career even further — literally overseas. “Right now, I am looking at playing for teams in Amsterdam,” Thompson said. “It was one of the first opportunities that came up and it would be really great to keep playing softball and see the world.”
But Thompson doesn’t want to stop there. In addition to her professional athletic career, Thompson plans to attend graduate school one day to become a physical therapist. “Growing up I was interested in the human body and the way it works,” Thompson said. “It is one of the only things I have truly been interested in and passionate about.”
Whether Thompson decides to play professionally in Europe or dive right into graduate studies, one thing is for sure: she can reflect back with pride on her collegiate career and the success she contributed to BYU women’s softball. She can also face the future with confidence — knowing she has a strong legion of fans, friends, coaches, family and yes even canines — to support her along the way.