Senior Spotlight: Touching Base with Softball Player Ashley Neuenfeldt

The Gustie student-athlete up to bat in this week’s feature is senior Ashley Neuenfeldt. A pitcher and outfielder for the Gustavus Softball team, Neuenfeldt hails from Bloomington, Minnesota. At a time when many of Gusties have left campus, Neuenfeldt’s reminiscence of her best memories with the team remind us of the value of connection, however we must do it while apart. Neuenfeldt has made quite the name for herself on the Softball field throughout her four years at Gustavus, with standout achievements including 2019 MIAC Academic all-conference honors, all-conference honorable mentions, and team-leading stats including a .353 batting average, 27 runs scored, and just eight strike-outs in 119 at-bats in the 2019 season. Despite this athletic prowess, Neuenfeldt reminds us that there’s so much more to the game of Softball than winning and losing.
“The most meaningful thing about Gustie Athletics for me has been the connections I’ve made with my teammates. They’ve definitely become some of my closest friends, and it was amazing to have kind of an immediate family as soon as I came onto campus… I’ve kinda continued to feel that as I’ve become an older student, fulfilling that role for some of the first years and teammates in classes below me.” Neuenfeldt said.
Even as she sees herself stepping into a leadership role as a veteran of the team, Neuenfeldt mentioned the influence her own role models had on her throughout college so far.
“I look up to all the members [of the team], the class ahead of me especially. Many of them were starters from their freshman year and that was really a role I also stepped into. Having their experience on the field with me and their excellence in the classroom was very inspiring.” Neuenfeldt said.
Most Gustie student-athletes will tell you that their sport and experience is defined by their teammates, with Neuenfeldt being no exception as she continued to discuss her favorite memories of Gustavus Softball.
“[My teammates] made the journey everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s one of those things where they kinda defined the experiences for me. It’s not about the wins, it’s not about the losses, but the things I remember are us playing hacky sack in between games, or our little bonding moments on our plane trip to South Africa… You’re just hanging out with people and enjoying those in-between moments. It’s been more special to me than the wins on the field, the time I’ve shared with other people.” Neuenfeldt said.
It’s no wonder why COVID has been so devastating for Gusties when teammate bonding plays such a powerful role in their college experience. Neuenfeldt discussed some of the biggest challenges she and her team have faced this fall.
“The biggest challenge has definitely been staying connected and staying motivated. I really thrive in the environment of being around my teammates, and it’s a lot easier to grind through a workout when you’ve got other people right beside you. I think holding myself accountable and keeping in mind what my goals are… I wanna be better for my teammates. We were able to get some lifting workouts this fall, and a couple of practices.” Neuenfeldt said, continuing with, “We’ve been staying connected over Zoom the last couple of weeks, and we’re going to continue to do that until we can get back out onto the field together. [We’ve been] bringing in some professional athletes that we can all learn from, and all of our Softball idols, we’re getting to meet some of them, which has been exciting!”
COVID isn’t the only thing that’s been a force of change in the Gustavus Softball program.
“We’re really trying to meet those incoming freshmen, and we also have a brand new coach this year, Coley Ries, and it’s been really exciting to get to know her and learn from her because she definitely brings a unique perspective, having played professionally.” Neuenfeldt said.
Regardless of the disappointments she’s faced thus far in her senior year, Neuenfeldt looked to the positives and her hopes for the spring semester.
“We have February 1st in our sights to start practice, and we’re kinda grinding it out until then! Some positives [amid Covid] were that we did a lot of small group things, and so it was really a great opportunity to get to know teammates better. You’re in a group with maybe two or three of you, and you’re really getting to know them. Especially with a brand new coach — getting to know Coley on that level was great, ‘cuz sometimes when you’re there with the whole team you don’t get that specialized attention.” Neuenfeldt said.
The prospect of a chance to compete again this spring has been a major motivator for Neuenfeldt.
“My biggest hope is that we can be as normal as possible, but being able to play even a couple of games, I think, would be kinda perfect for me. I’m just really excited to get back out on the field! I’ve been coaching all summer, and watching those athletes play has just made me want to get out there and compete more and more. Neuenfeldt said.
Neuenfeldt has a job already lined up for after graduation, but she certainly won’t be forsaking the sport of Softball anytime soon.
“I’ll be working in the Actuarial Development Program at Traveler’s in St. Paul. I interned with them this summer, and I’m definitely excited to pursue that! I’ve been coaching with a club team in my hometown Bloomington, Minnesota, and I will be an assistant coach for that team again.” Neuenfeldt said, before expanding on the life lessons she will carry over from Gustie Softball into the next stage of her life.
“Control the controllables. In Minnesota we deal with a lot of weather, in any sport you’re dealing with officials and different things you can’t control, Covid has added a whole other element there… There’s so many things that you can’t control, so stay on top of what you can and make the best of every situation.” Neuenfeldt said.
She wrapped up with one last piece of advice for Gusties, especially those of us who may be a little too wrapped up in perfectionism as finals approach.
“It’s ok to fail. A batting average of 300 is pretty good. failing seven out of ten times might happen, but keeping your head on straight, looking forward, and seeing what you can do better… If you’ve put in all the preparation work, that’s really all you can do. Going into it knowing I’ve done everything in my power is really the mindset I want to keep going forward” Neuenfeld said.