For 16-year-old Abigayle Perry, there’s never been much doubt about what she’s wanted to do when she grows up.
“I’ve always wanted to play college softball,” she says. “It’s been a dream since early on.”
Naturally athletic, Abigayle initially tried gymnastics and cheerleading, but after trying T-ball at age five, something just clicked.
“I don’t know what it was about it that stuck with me,” she says, “but everything about it was fun.”
But it was a serious, competitive sort of fun, even at that early age, according to Abigayle’s mother Mary Domer.
“She was frustrated with the other kids picking dandelions,” Mary says. “She wanted to be super serious from the get-go, so we moved her to a softball team right away at six.”
Abigayle played rec ball, then travel softball, and all over the field, including catching and pitching. But as she’s gotten older and matured in the sport, she’s found her place in the middle infield, primarily as a short stop, a position she’d played on the Brunswick High School softball team since her freshman year.
“I love playing short because they have priority on the field — anything they can get to, they get — and I definitely like having the ball in my hands and being in any play I can,” Abigayle says. “Short is where you show off the most. You’re the one taking throw downs and cut-offs, playing the hole or up the middle. All that kind of stuff is just really fun.”
Abigayle’s knowledge of the game is excellent — “she studies the game a lot,” Mary says, “watches it, reads about it” — and her speed top notch. But with that ambition of playing college ball in mind, it was about a year ago that she began looking at what she could to improve her game further. To literally stand out more on the field.
“She doesn’t have the physique of a standard shortstop, because she’s small, she’s 5’1”,” Mary said. “Once you see her play, it’s like wow, but from the parking lot perspective, as her coach says, she doesn’t look the part as a shortstop.”
“She fits the mold of the type of softball player they call a ‘slapper’ — it’s kind of like a bunt specialist in baseball,” says Travis Bewley, one of Abigayle’s coaches at Players Fitness and Performance, in Frederick. It’s the training facility Abigayle found through her friends and immediately realized could be the place to help her take her game to the next level.
“I first started last August and as soon as I walked in the door I could tell that they have fun, but I was definitely going to get something out of it,” Abigayle says.
As a switch hitter, it was important for Abigayle that she balance her strength on both sides. And as a player that wasn’t known for hitting home runs, she hoped to cultivate more power at the plate as well.
“She had the speed and also she moved really well, but we found she wasn’t activating the right muscles,” Bewley says. “Everything she was able to do as an athlete to that point was really raw and really natural — she had a lot of untapped potential. We really just got her engaging the right muscles and integrating it on the field.”
A lot of focused, even tedious work on activating those sleeping muscles, and Abigayle was seeing real changes on the field.
“I was hitting the ball harder to begin with, and then I hit four home runs this year in high school after never hitting one over before,” she says. “I also definitely think I got a lot faster and I stole a lot more bases this year.”
In fact, Abigayle stole 25 bases in her sophomore year season, a school record, and just 16 her freshman year.
“These next two years I’m hoping to set a new record for career stolen bases,” she says.
But even more valuable than her physical growth was Abigayle’s mental development. Already a true competitive spirit and a 4.0 student, PFP worked with her to further hone her focus, necessary to go through the sometimes boring, repetitive drills necessary to activate her latent musculature, according to Bewley.
“The exercises are easy to go through mindlessly and not get a lot out of them, but she really attacked them with focus,” he said. “She went through minute details and came out with what she wanted, the power and speed.”
“They know she can do things that she probably wouldn’t even think she could,” Mary adds, “which I think is a super important aspect of PFP as well.”
Transcending one’s own limitations isn’t always about pushing harder, however, and Abigayle said that PFP’s regular lessons on mindset and self-talk have really helped her learn how to get out of her own way.
“This month especially, their focus is on being a perfectionist and this one has definitely gotten to me, because I am for sure a perfectionist,” she says. “I just need ease up on myself and just try some things that I haven’t, even if I am not going to do it right.”
Putting it all together, Abigayle not only saw record making gains on the softball field, she earned recognition from the team at PFP as well, being named the July Athlete of the Month.
“I was kind of surprised. I didn’t really see it coming at all,” she says. “But it was really great to hear that because I have really worked hard since coming in.”
That Abigayle was surprised, is not that surprising to Mary, however.
“She’s not one for the accolades,” Mary said. “She knows she’s good, but to accept it and to tell other people you’re good is so much harder. She’s completely humble in that regard.”
Which is why now that that she’s heading into her junior year, and Division One schools are permitted to start reaching out on Sept. 1, Abigayle is looking to communicate her talent directly through her performance.
“I can make myself stand out on the field any way possible, whether it be defensively or offensively, whatever, I want to do that,” she says. “After hitting four home runs this year, that was really big for me. Now that I know I am capable of doing it, I’d like to hit even more.”
And Abigayle is so used to long term planning, she’s not just thinking of playing college softball, but how she can stay involved in the sport even after a collegiate career.
“I want to go to school for athletic training to eventually become an athletic trainer,” she says.
That day may be years away, but Abigayle, it’s what keeps her moving in the moment. Pushing weight, and making plays.
“If I can push through that last rep, or go to a new max, I am only making myself better when I could have just quit before that. That alone is different. Not everybody is going to do it,” she says. “If I can go through and push to my goal, I think that makes me stand out.”
That’s Abigayle Perry’s why. What’s your why?