April 1, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Ashley Thomas knows all about the thrills and chills surrounding the National Pro Fastpitch Draft.
Last March 31, Thomas sat in her dorm room on the Georgia Tech campus with her roommate, just hoping to hear her name announced. Once she heard her name, she waited for her face to appear on her computer screen just to confirm that her dream of playing pro softball had come true.
“I looked about three different times just to make sure,” Thomas recalled, with a laugh. “But once my family started calling I was like, `Okay, this has to be me.’
“I was just so excited. I can’t put it into words,” she added. “I was getting a little nervous, obviously, it was getting to the end. But after they said my name and I saw my picture and everything up there, I was really happy. I started tearing up, tears of joy, of course. Then my mom called me right away and just told me how proud of me she was. I was extremely excited.”
Thomas, selected by the Akron Racers with the 16th pick out of 20, won’t have to wait that long to hear her name called or see her face broadcast at this year’s NPF Draft. Nor will she be surprised when it does — although she may expect to get another call from her mom.
She is going to be front and center during the 90-minute broadcast (6:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network), as the former Jackets shortstop and 2013 ACC Player of the Year, will be the face of the Racers franchise at the Draft.
“I wouldn’t say that,” she said, with a laugh. “I’m just blessed for this opportunity. [Owner/GM] Joey [Arrietta]’s great. She’s such a great lady and she’s all about pro softball. Everything she does is to better pro softball. The fact that she’s asked me to come and represent our team and this great league that we’re in, I’m so grateful to just represent and I want to do really well representing us.”
While Thomas, who has served as a volunteer assistant for Georgia Tech this season, and hit .326 (10th in the league) in her rookie season, is modest about her face-time, she is very serious about her presence at the event. She sees the Draft, which will take place at the CMA Theatre inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tenn., as a major opportunity to grow the league, which has expanded to from four teams to six for 2015.
“It’s live on national TV. So we want to represent well,” Thomas said. “The fact that it’s on TV is great. It hasn’t been this way in a while so CBS Sports is great for hosting it. And it’s in Nashville, so it’s a beautiful, beautiful place to have it.”
“Our whole goal is to grow the league,” she added. “Basically, everything I’m doing is to get the NPF out there. Get it all over every kind of social media we can and get pro softball back up to where it needs to be.”
Thomas can’t wait for the summer and to get back to Akron, where she needs to be.
“It’s crazy to think of where I was last year at this time,” she said. “I was in my dorm room with my roommate and we were watching [the Draft] online. It’s amazing. I’m extremely excited to be going back to Akron this summer. It’s one of my dreams that I get to live out. I’m extremely thankful for that opportunity.”