Sept. 24, 2010
By Jon Cooper
McKinney, Texas, is a pretty nice place to live.
Located between Prosper (15 miles to the west) and New Hope (seven miles to the east), it’s been one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States every year over the last decade and in July, CNN’s Money Magazine rated it one of the best cities in the United States to live — the only city in Texas to earn a place in the top 10.
Georgia Tech softball has found that it can make a pretty good living there as well.
Head coach Sharon Perkins has pulled two plums from McKinney, senior pitcher Kristen Adkins and incoming freshman Ashley Thomas, whose primary position is shortstop but who is vying for the starting job at second base.
“I think they just have good kids that come out of there,” said Perkins. “It’s not like we go to the high school and are finding them at the high school. We see them in travel ball and that just happens to be where they came from.”
Travel ball actually unites Adkins and Thomas, who are separated by three years and faced each other only once in high school — more on that in a second. In fact, prior to this summer, thanks to travel ball, it’s more likely that Thomas would have been tighter with Adkins’ father, Dan, who coached her club-ball team, Texas Glory Gold (also Kristen’s team), than with Kristen.
But not knowing each other didn’t mean that they didn’t know OF each other, especially since they went to rival high schools.
“My senior year was the only time we ever got to play against one another,” recalled Adkins, the ace at McKinney North. “I remember there being a bunch of hype about this young shortstop over at McKinney High. At that time, I didn’t really know who she was.”
Thomas, “that young shortstop,” knew all about Adkins and never forgot her, after grounding a single to center off her the one time they faced off.
“That was one hit that I really remember because she was an ace. She was a really awesome pitcher — she still is, of course — but I got a hit off of her,” said Thomas. “That was something I remember being really excited about. I told her about it, how when I was a freshman, ‘I just got a hit off Kristen Adkins.'”
Adkins’ recollection of the at-bat was a little fuzzier.
“I don’t [remember],” she said with a laugh. “As a pitcher, we give up a lot of hits over the years and so sometimes you just tend to put them toward the back of your mind.”
Adkins did remember a different confrontation with Thomas — at least it resembled a confrontation — which dated back to high school and, as with their on-field rivalry, was built up primarily through hearsay.
“One of the McKinney High players that was in my class, we had this little rivalry going on. The girl ended up vandalizing my car,” Adkins recalled. “Rumor had gotten out that Ashley was in on it. Of course, she wasn’t. She’s not that type of person.
“From the time it took me to get home from school that day, she had already called me like three times on the phone and just left messages crying, saying, ‘I’m so sorry. I didn’t do it. I had nothing to do with it,'” she continued. “The only memory I had vividly was thinking, ‘Okay, she just vandalized my car.’ But she had nothing to do with it.”
Adkins and Thomas have talked directly plenty since. The dialog picked up over the summer once Thomas committed to Georgia Tech and has continued regularly now that both are on campus in Atlanta.
Thomas, an Industrial Engineering major, with three younger sisters (ages 14, 4, and 3), has admitted her most trying moment thus far came while getting lost going to calculus on her first day of class, but she is happy to know a fellow “McKinneyite” is around.
“[Adkins] is always trying to help out,” said Thomas. “She always wants to talk, because she knows how it’s like being away from home, even though now her parents are in Georgia. It’s good to have someone to talk to about it.”
“I’m really fortunate to have gotten to get to know her,” said Adkins. “To get to play with her now is a blessing. It’s pretty cool.”
Adkins believes that Tech fans will find watching Thomas is pretty cool.
“Ashley is a very bubbly person and player,” she said. “They’ll never see her without a smile, ever. She’s very outgoing and friendly and approachable.
“She’s also very competitive,” Adkins continued. “She will put her body on the line to do whatever it takes for the team to win, and she never gives less than 100 percent. She never goes less than 100 miles an hour in anything that she does. Tech fans can just expect great things from her.”
Adkins expects Thomas, the District 9-4A Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, to be as tough an out left-handed, where she now hits exclusively, as she was right-handed, where she hit when they squared off. She offered the following scouting report:
“She has a tendency to love the inside pitch,” Adkins said. “She can pull the ball really hard and then, with that awesome speed that she has, can turn a double into a triple pretty easily. So, my plan would be probably to see what I can get her to chase away and then, if I get behind, just come in really hard and low and see if I can get her to ground out.”
Adkins may get the opportunity to test that theory on Sunday, when the team holds its annual White/Gold Scrimmage at Mewborn Field. The game is open to the public, with first pitch scheduled for 11 a.m.