Friday, October 31, 2014

Ashlyn Masters Steps Into Justin's World

In just two years in a South Carolina Gamecocks uniform, Ashlyn Masters made an impact on the program and left a mark that won't soon be forgotten.

Cred: Travis Bell/Gamecock Athletics
After a season of riding the pine at Florida State, Ashlyn spent two seasons at Northwest Florida State and absolutely brutalized the competition, hitting .419 and slugging .779. She tagged eighteen home runs and forty-seven doubles over that same time period.

Following her tenure in the Sunshine State, Masters transferred to South Carolina to finish her final two years of eligibility. In doing so, she joined younger sister Lauren in a Gamecock uniform. At USC, Ashlyn started all but seven of the games she appeared in, popping up all across the diamond with starts at second base, designated player, and two different outfield positions. She paced the 2014 squad with a .362 batting average on the year. Ashlyn posted a two-year .322/12/64 stat line with the Gamecocks.

After graduating from USC this past spring, Ashlyn became the owner of SmashHouse Training Facility in Georgia. She speaks more about her facility & future plans for it in the interview below. A few of the other things we discussed... 

  • Although she is the oldest, how she followed her sister's influence to begin playing softball
  • Her role models
  • Playing college ball with her sister
  • How she hopes to be remembered in Gamecock history
  • A single pitcher she wishes she had faced
  • and more!

How did you get started playing the game of softball?
I followed the lead of my younger sister, Lauren, who played t-ball.  I chose NOT to play when she signed up with the recreation department at Sweetwater Park in Thomson, GA but changed my mind by the next season.  That first softball season, coached by Dr. John Bieltz and Dr. Darryl Wiley, took us to Vidalia, Georgia in an All Stars series.  My mom has often told me about moms asking her “how long has Ashlyn been playing?” and how they were surprised to find out it was my very first stab at the game!

Both athletically and in life, who would you say has been your biggest inspiration and/or role model?
Athletically, my dad was definitely my biggest inspiration.  He is a very hard worker and always strives to be the best at whatever he’s doing.  He studied the game hard and always provided me with the best equipment, got me to the best instructors available and spent all of his spare time teaching and coaching me.  My life role model would have to be my mother.  She has been the peacemaker, the soft side and the spiritual guidance we all need.  My parents’ strengths combined make a pretty good balance!

Finish this sentence: If not for softball, I would be successful at whatever I chose to do.  I’ve always said I should have been a cheerleader because I’m all about the bows and social aspect and the dance part.  I have a strong foundation at home and I am quite sure I would have been confident and strong at whatever I did based on that foundation.  

How great was it for you to get to play a year of college softball with your sister? Did that make your senior season just that much more special? 
In a nutshell:  Sharing the field with my sister in college meant EVERYTHING to me!  Lauren is not only my sister but my best friend.  She brought a level of comfort and strength I would not have otherwise had.  We worked hard to get there, and to share the experience as Division I athletes in the SEC was nothing short of a blessing. Looking across the field at her most definitely made my senior year that much more special.  She’s one of the best athletes I know and it was a privilege to play WITH her.

You list your sister as your biggest softball influence... is there a healthy competition between sisters or have the two of you always influenced and inspired each other?
Never once was there competition between us.  We definitely COACH each other and encourage each other, pointing out areas that need improvement but we have always been each other’s biggest supporter. We were actually allies under the strict regimen of our dad! We were a “team” before anything! Lauren and I played travel ball out of Atlanta, so it was just the two of us practicing back home in Evans all week. We were always FOR each other and relied on each other to press on and through the hardships.  I have so much respect for my little sis!

With numerous honors and some school records and top-fives with your name on them, how does it feel for you know that your name will go down as one of the best to put on an SC uniform?
It was an amazing career.  I can only hope I brought more to the program than just records.  I hope I am remembered as a fierce competitor who had fun with the game.  I gave it all I had and left it all on the field and I feel at peace knowing that.

What would you call the proudest moment of your career?
The first thing that comes to mind would be my walk off homerun against Texas A&M on our home field that placed me #7 on ESPN’s Top Ten show.  Ultimately, however, I would have to say ‘coming full circle’ and ending my career on the field I started on with multiple homeruns during Regional play at FSU [in 2014].

Even though your playing career ended just a few months ago, you’ve already begun your post-playing career in the game. Tell me about your new facility and what your plans are with it.
Although I had opportunities to continue playing softball, I opted to give back by way of helping girls achieve their goals by opening a hitting/training facility, SmashHouse, named after my nickname as a Gamecock which was SMASHLYN for the way I “smashed” the ball.  SmashHouse is located 3 miles from Sweetwater Park where I first swung the bat as an 8 year old girl. My plans are two-fold:  1) to provide instruction and opportunities to girls who would not otherwise have a chance to play softball at the highest level possible and 2) to give young female athletes the chance to get into college and have the experiences I had as a college student athlete.  SmashHouse will officially open on November 2, 2014.  The staff is comprised of myself, my dad, Charles Masters; Kaila Hunt, University of Alabama; Kirsten Duncan, ABAC (pitching) and my sister, Lauren Masters, when available.  I envision SmashHouse Training Facility becoming a name that is synonymous with producing top level collegiate athletes.

You’ve played several different positions in the field over the course of your career… do you prefer a certain position to the others?
I actually enjoyed them all.  Just being on the field was enough for me.

Who is one pitcher you wish you would have had the chance to face?
I pretty much faced every pitcher there was during my softball career, except Keilani Rickets at Oklahoma.  That would have been nice to have hit off of her.

Outside of your new facility, what are your plans for the future?
To live on or near water and to have jet skis.  I hope to eventually have a family and enjoy all that life has to offer.    
Let’s end on a fun one! Say you were stranded on a deserted island, but you could take three things with you. No boats, no phones. What would you take?
A machete, a case of Ramen noodles and toilet paper!  

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