By Maya Washburn
When Ashton Lansdell steps out on the diamond today for FIU’s softball opener, it will mark her first season playing the sport.
Since the age of 4, the sophomore transfer has exclusively played baseball. That includes the years when she was the only girl on the team.
Inspired by her father who played baseball through college, she grew up with the sport. Nevertheless, she was consistently underestimated as a female in baseball, a situation that only drove her passion.
“I fell in love with the game, but I didn't like people telling me that I couldn't play baseball because I was a girl. I kept playing baseball to prove people wrong,” Lansdell said. “People would tell me I shouldn’t play baseball because it’s ‘a boy’s game.’”
But by her male peers, she was 100% accepted as part of the team.
“We were all like family most of the time, just friends playing baseball. I got really lucky with that type of environment,” Lansdell said. “It was intimidating as I was starting to get older because the boys do get bigger, faster and stronger, but I persevered. I definitely earned their respect.”
Finally, at the age of 17, she tried out for and landed a spot on the USA Women’s National Baseball (WNB) Team, an elite 18-player group of professionals that represents the United States in international women's baseball competitions. In 2019, Lansdell helped lead the team to a gold medal victory at the Women's Pan-American Championships in Mexico.
On that high, however, followed a low for Lansdell: She suffered a torn right ACL while turning a double play, which led to multiple surgeries. She was out for two seasons and during that time started at a university close to her home in Georgia, but she found herself struggling to keep up her GPA while juggling a full-time job.
“When I wasn’t playing baseball, I wasn't focused and didn't really care about anything,” Lansdell said. “I figured I needed to get back into college sports if I wanted to get a degree. I thought, why not try out softball? I have all of the abilities to play softball because it goes hand-in-hand with baseball, so I decided to take that jump.”
With women's baseball not a widely popular college sport, she investigated schools that supported women's softball. Starting at FIU, she saw her grades and motivation immediately improve after she got back on the field.
“It mentally helps me to be on a team and play for the school I attend so I represent the school well,” she explained. “My USA WNB coaches connected me to Coach Larabee at FIU who gave me an offer last March, and I have been working on softball ever since.”
Mike Larabee, FIU softball head coach, has helped infielder Lansdell transition from baseball to softball since her recruitment to the team.
“Ashton is a very talented athlete who can play a variety of positions,” Larabee said. “She is a five-tool player that can hit for average and power. She has great speed and can play a high level of catch.”
The major differences between baseball and softball that Lansdell has had to get accustomed to are the size of the field and the ball.
“Because the ball is bigger, it's heavier, so I don’t have to throw as far or as hard. Because the field is smaller, the game is actually a lot quicker than baseball because we are closer in proximity with each other,” Lansdell explained. “The ball just moves differently, so that's the biggest obstacle for me to overcome, but I feel pretty comfortable on the field just because both sports go together.”
Lansdell is currently working towards her bachelor’s in physical education and hopes to later obtain a master’s in kinesiology. She also intends to stay connected with the USA WNB professional team. And to her peers, she offers encouragement to rise above expectations – advice that has fueled her career from the start.
“Be confident in yourself and your abilities. You can do anything that you set your mind to and you're the only person that determines whether you do something or not,” Lansdell said. “Believe in yourself…it has gotten me to quite a few places that I never thought I would get to.”