Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Jill Compton Steps Into Justin's World

For west coast softball fans, the PAC-12 may dominate headlines, but with the plethora of non-Power Five conferences seemingly better and more competitive year-in and year-out, there's no shortage of great softball "out yonder".

(c) Fresno State Athletics
Almost inarguably, Fresno State is one of the greatest programs in the Golden State. A former National Champion and perennial powerhouse, the Bulldogs fit the same description even without the geographical distinction.

Over the last several years, one pitcher has had a big hand in guiding the program to some of its greatest success in recent history. Jill Compton has already cemented her legacy in Bulldog lore, just months after throwing her final pitch.

Four times a member of the Mountain West's all-conference team, Compton graduated with her name in the top ten of eight of her program's historical statistical categories. Not to be easily forgotten in Mountain West history, either, she ended her career atop a quartet of conference records and with two Pitcher of the Year trophies adorning her mantle.

Continually underrated, Compton was undrafted, but quickly found herself snatched off the free agency market by the Dallas Charge, signing a long-term deal with the club.

Jill joined me to chat about many aspects of her career, among them:
  • Her very beginnings in softball
  • Her career at Fresno State
  • Playing in the NPF
  • Her plans for the future
  • and much more!

Justin’s World of Softball: How did you get started playing softball?
Jill Compton: I started playing softball when I was 8 years old, mostly because I played any sport my older sister played. Following in my sister’s footsteps, I played basketball, volleyball, and softball. Growing up, I was a natural athlete when it came to basketball and volleyball, but wasn’t very good at softball. I liked the challenge softball gave me and wanted to be a pitcher. At 10 years old, I went to a softball camp with my dad and learned the basic fundamentals of pitching. After that camp, my dad and I spent many hours at the ball fields working to get better. 

JWOS: What led you to Fresno State?
Compton: From the moment I stepped on campus, I knew Fresno State was where I wanted to be. Obviously, Coach Wright was a huge reason I chose Fresno State, but also representing the Central Valley, playing for a remarkable program, and having the best fans in college softball.  

(c) Fresno State Athletics
JWOS: Tell me about being recruited by coach Wright, then learning of her retirement and that you’d be playing for coach Ford. Was there ever any thought on your part that you might want to look at another place to go to school & play, or was Fresno going to be either way?
Compton: It’s an honor that Coach Wright recruited me. She’s one of the winningest coaches in college softball and I would have loved if she could have coached me because I know I would have learned a lot from her. I definitely thought of going elsewhere when she called me and told me about her retirement, but I remembered my visit and how I instantly fell in love with Fresno State. I didn’t want to leave because I knew we were going to get a good coach and I still wanted to go to school there.

JWOS: Being a non-Pac 12 team on the West coast, the Bulldogs don’t get a lot of national attention. Does that affect you, when you and your team are playing stellarly but don’t receive much praise or attention for it? Or does that motivate you to just keep working harder?
Compton: It was difficult to see us not getting as much attention, but I enjoyed it because I love being the underdog. We always had something to prove. I think we displayed throughout my four years that we could compete with any team in the nation.

JWOS: When you’re in the midst of a winning streak like Fresno had this season, how does your mindset change going into each game? What do you have to do to keep your “head on straight” and not think about just keeping the streak alive?
Compton: We didn’t think or talk about our winning streak at all. Coach Ford preached to us that it was important that we took each day as a new opportunity to win. Every day we had a game we wanted to walk away with a win; we didn’t think about the game before or the game the next day.

JWOS: Your squad seemingly was shorted once again by not being selected to host a Regional this year. Give me your thoughts on that.
Compton: We were bummed when we didn’t get a shot to host a regional because we love playing in front of our home crowd, but this past season we played better on the road so we looked at it as a positive.

JWOS: What would you call the proudest moment of your career, at least to this point?
Compton: WOW. Well, there have been a lot of proud moments being a Bulldog, but I think when we won the Mountain West at San Jose this past season was my proudest moment. I think this was my proudest moment because not just one individual made this team special. Every single person, on the field or in the dugout, contributed in some way to help us win and get as far as we did.

JWOS: Despite not being selected in the draft, was playing in the NPF something you hoped to do this season? Tell me how the league first came on your radar as something you could and might want to do.
Compton: As a kid, I always wanted to play softball at the highest level. After my junior season, I realized that playing after college could be a possibility. But after I didn’t get drafted, I thought my goals were set too high. Two days after we lost in UCLA, I got a text from the Dallas Charge and they flew me out to practice with them for a tryout! I haven’t been home since!

JWOS: Tell me about signing with Dallas and the three-year deal there. Obviously, playing long-term is something you’re planning on?
Compton: Signing with Dallas is awesome; I’m having a blast and learning so much more about the game. It’s an honor to play with and compete against the best softball players in the country. I love softball and I hope that I’ll be able to play longer than just 3 years!

JWOS: What other plans do you have for the future – is coaching an avenue you might want to pursue?
Compton: Coaching is definitely the avenue I want to take. I want to give back to the game that has given me so much and teaching girls has always been a passion of mine. I’m headed back to Fresno during the fall to finish school and hopefully help out the team in some way!

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