When her big brother and his friends were playing whiffle ball in the backyard as youngsters, Maddie Thompson, maybe no more than 5-years-old, was right there in the middle of it.
Now, when both Maddie and her brother Korey turn out to be excellent fielders, you wonder if trying to snag those waffling whiffle balls might have had something to do with it.
Things didn’t change over the years. When Korey was a star second baseman for the Bryant Hornets high school team and the Bryant Black Sox American Legion team, there was Maddie playing catch or fielding grounders of playing pepper with Korey and his teammates. Just warming up for a game, she fit right in. They didn’t have to let up on their throws to let her catch them.
Korey went on to start for Arkansas Tech University and is now the head baseball coach for the England Lions.
Now, it’s Maddie’s turn at college ball. After becoming one of the Bryant Lady Hornets’ top hitters in 2019 as well as the proverbial vacuum at third base for head coach Lisa Dreher, the younger Thompson, daughter of Stephanie and Jason Thompson, made it official on Thursday, signing to continue her education and her softball career at National Park College in Hot Springs. She’ll be playing for new NPC head coach and former Bryant and UCA star Jessica Taylor.
“I went to tryout one weekend,” said Thompson, who was named all State Tournament and all-conference last spring. “I didn’t really want to go but my mom made me go. So, I tried out and (Coach Taylor) called me back later that day and said, ‘We want you to come down for a visit.’ So, I went down there for a visit and they offered me a full ride.
“My other option was Tech,” she mentioned. “I really wanted to go to Arkansas Tech but that didn’t really work out for me. I really like the campus there.
“But this is a great opportunity for me. I get to decide what I want to do after two years. If I want to keep playing and what not. I get to go get my education done.”
Her academic plans appear to be set.
“I want to do dental hygiene,” she said. “I’ve wanted to do that since I was little. I’m finally here and I’m going to try to pursue it.”
Dreher said, “She’s a good utility player. We used her predominantly at third base last year. She’s also able to catch and play outfield. I’m not sure where yet but we’ll use her somewhere (next spring). She’s a good solid hitter too.
“She kind of flew under the radar for a long time,” the coach added. “People under-estimated her. She was just real consistent. She had one little slump but, overall, she’s just been real consistent.”
Thompson has learned to like third.
“I didn’t start playing third base until I got to high school ball,” she related. “At first, Coach Dreher was like, ‘All right, you’re going to go play third.’ I was like, ‘Coach Dreher, that’s not me.’ And she’s like, ‘Well, if you want to play, that’s where you’re going to go.’
“So, I went over there and I listened to what my coaches told me I needed to do and, since then, that’s where I’ve been and I love it.”
Asked where her defensive prowess as well as her brother’s, Maddie said, “I don’t know. We’ve always tried to work hard. Our parents push us to be our best. That’s where our work ethic comes from is our parents. We’ve always had to work harder than everybody, out-work everybody. That’s what got us here.”
Her hitting took a real leap in 2019.
“When I was little, all I’d do is hit bloopers out to right field,” she recalled. “It was right field, right field, right field. (The opposition) started picking up on that.
“We were going to the cage and my dad said, ‘All right, we’ve got to make an adjustment. They’re figuring it out,’” she continued. “At first, I was stubborn. I didn’t want to listen to what he had to say. But then after that, I made the adjustments and I took off.
“I got to high school ball and my freshman year, I didn’t do too good hitting-wise. Sophomore year I got the opportunity to start. I realized I had to make adjustments if I wanted to play. So, I made those adjustments quick. I got in there and just took off since then.”