Athletes Unlimited's Aly Harrell Lives Her Softball Dream
When asked to recall how many hours she spent practicing softball with her dad when she was growing up, Aly Harrell had no idea.
“At least 8,000, 10,000 hours—a huge amount,” said Harrell. “Before I was able to go hang out with friends or do anything, we had to go outside to the yard and hit six bags of wiffle balls, three or four buckets of softballs, get in 200 or 300 swings before I was able to go hang out about every day, so the number’s way up there.”
It is safe to say that all the practice paid off. Harrell, a 2022 graduate of Marshall University, recently completed her first season of professional softball with Athletes Unlimited in the league's abbreviated AUX campaign. After finishing 23rd out of 43 players on the AUX leaderboard, she's now preparing for her first full season with Athletes Unlimited, which begins at the end of the month.
It was a quick transition from the end of her collegiate career to the beginning of her time in the pros. So, naturally, it came with a few changes for Harrell.
“In college, every minute was scheduled,” said Harrell. “You knew what you were doing for almost every minute of the day. With professional (softball), you have a little more leisure time to do whatever you personally need to do. Once it came to warmups, it started to be more structured, but it was more individualized.”
When she arrived in San Diego for AUX, it did not take long for Harrell to get acquainted with the rest of the Athletes Unlimited softball players.
“It was pretty easy to open up and be myself once getting introduced and mingling around,” said Harrell.
With the uniqueness of AU, some of the friends she had just met quickly became her opponents in games. For the first two series, Harrell and Georgina Corrick were teammates. For the final series, however, she had to face off against the right-handed hurler.
“It was just a good experience, to be able to make friends, but also having to compete against the friends you make,” said Harrell.
Harrell completed her career at Marshall as one of the most decorated players in the program’s storied history. She finished with a .390 career batting average, 222 hits, 220 runs driven in, 47 doubles and 53 home runs. She holds the program record for most career walks with 175 and also holds the program’s highest on-base percentage of .562.
Harrell’s impact on the school and program extended further than her performance on the field, however. Last month, she was chosen as the recipient of the 2022 Senior CLASS Award for Division I softball, a prestigious honor given to a senior or graduate-level student-athlete who displays talent on the field, but also gives back to her community.
Throughout her time in Huntington, W.Va., while not at practice or competing in games, Harrell spent hours doing volunteer work like serving at local hospitals in the area to coaching at the Little League level. Her desire to serve others, according to Harrell, goes all the way back to kindergarten.
“I am a lifetime girl scout. I have been in girl scouts since about kindergarten, and I would say that’s probably a big reason why I’m so invested in service,” said Harrell. “And my mom was our troop leader. She got me into girl scouts, but I’ve always just enjoyed making the blankets for children at the hospital, being a camp counselor at day camp and just so many different things that we did for the different awards throughout girl scouts that we had to work towards.”
Harrell is the first student-athlete from Marshall to be the recipient of the Senior CLASS Award, but is the sixth student-athlete, and third softball player, chosen from the school as a finalist.
“I’m just honored to be the first Marshall student-athlete (to win the award),” said Harrell. “And I have said to our media people there that I was shocked that I was the first one knowing the athletes we have and how big our community is and our support and how much the athletes get out into the community. I’m just honored to be able to carry that for Marshall University.”
From the thousands of hours spent outside practicing with her dad to now playing professionally for AU, Harrell is further along in the sport of softball than she had ever dreamed she would be.
“I was just standing in the dugout cheering on my team during AUX, and I was like, 'wow, to have dreamed I would have gotten to this point is crazy.'”