MURFREESBORO — Incoming senior Madison Humphry will fulfill a lifelong dream by continuing her softball career following graduation at the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain Community College in Mena (RMCC).
She stated that she was attracted to the program because the hometown feel.
“I’m a home town girl, so I just felt really comfortable. Everyone [at the college] was really inviting … everyone knew my name before I even introduced myself, so I feel like they wanted me to be there as much as I wanted to be there.”
Humphry was recruited by RMCC coach Tracy Nealy, who is setting up a squad that will begin competition in 2020. In fact, Humphry was the first athlete to commit to the upcoming program, a fact she said excitedly “was kinda cool.”
According to a RMCC press release, Nealy, a veteran coach of 34 years, spent nine years at Horatio and 25 years at DeQueen High School, where he also started the school’s softball program. As a coach, he holds one state championship in softball and six state semi-final berths.
“I’m really looking forward to playing under Coach Nealy — he is an amazing coach and I am really excited to be a part of [the program] he is building,” said Humphry. “It will be neat that I will be in the picture going up in the school of the first team.”
“It will be a really good fit for her,” said Lady Rattler softball head coach Nicole Martin.
Humphry said she looks forward to playing with fellow signee, pitcher Autumn Powell from Mena high school.
“We have played on the same team for a couple of tournaments, and have played against each other. But I’m excited to play with her because she’s an ace pitcher, and I think it will come in handy a lot.”
She said Nealy got to do some scouting of her at this year’s Sophomore/Junior Classic that she attended in Conway along with teammate Lainie Baxter, which led to the visit of the RMCC campus last month.
Martin said that attention for Madison was also drummed up at a prospect camp held at Henderson State University.
Humphry, an honor student at MHS, said she is still unsure of what direction her college studies will take her, but that she will be afforded some time to decide as she takes requisite classes at RMCC while earning her associate’s degree.
“I like that a lot of the classrooms feel like high school, nothing over 35-40 kids in a class. I’m excited about not just being a face in the class — they know I’m an athlete, but I don’t want to be treated any differently [in class], I want to get as much education as I can, so when I move on to a 4-year school I’ll be ready to focus on something. I like school, and never have been one to not like going to class — everyone is dreading college, and I’m just ready to be on a different level than high school in my next chapter. Going to [RMCC] will be a good step in between, and I get to move along without getting dropped in the ocean.”
Additionally, she hopes to parlay her softball skills into also earning a bachelor’s degree at a four year university following her two seasons at RMCC.
“I know that a lot of colleges look at junior colleges [for players], and that was another thing I liked, getting my feet wet in a system … and get a little playing time at the collegiate level, and then hopefully go on to a four year school, which would still be an option.”
She jokes that she would “100%” take any offer to play softball after her two years at RMCC, because “I just love softball so much,” she admits that a perfect scenario would have her playing in Fayetteville for the Razorbacks.
Martin said Humphry continuing her playing career beyond Mena was a extremely realistic possibility.
“I know Tracy Nealy — he was very big shoes to fill [when he left] at Horatio, and he did awesome things at DeQueen. He’s one of the best coaches in the state … I think that combination [Nealy/Humphry] will be awesome because Madison has had to do everything at a AA school. She’s too athletic not to play all sports, and when she gets to Rich Mountain and she is able to focus on just education and softball, the sky will be the limit. When she gets to rep softball year round and work on her weight training softball specific — and not for track and basketball as well — she will have growth and it will be scary and impressive.”
Martin said Nealy recruited Humphry with the idea that she has to play immediately in the inaugural team, but also adds that he has connection with college coaches to utilize the pipeline to garner Humphry a larger shot down the road.
Humphry, who has attended school at Murfreesboro since kindergarten, said people with the school and local public have provided a very positive mindset toward her.
“Everyone has been so encouraging — it’s really humbling. I love how everyone rallies around each other in the surrounding community — even people that don’t even know me have congratulated me.”
She adds that MHS softball coach Nicole Martin and assistant coach Chad Brinkley have been her “cheerleaders” through the whole process.
“They are the two people to have been most excited for me — along with my parents, of course,” Humphry said with a laugh.
She credit her father, Trevor, with shaping her into the player she is today, along with the many miles of travel ball the pair logged during her formative years.
“He is always on me about being the best I can be — he’s never forced me to play softball, but it has just been something we enjoyed together. I really do love competing, so while he has always been encouraging, it was still something I wanted to do. It was just my thing.”
With RMCC down the road, the three sport athlete — softball, basketball and track — says she is looking forward to her senior season at MHS.
“I’m really excited and been working really hard, doing anything Coach Nealy tells me to do to prepare.”
According to Humphry, Nealy has provided her with sample workouts and she hopes to be fully ready go into the situation.
“I just want to go in fully prepared as possible — it will be a new program and Coach Nealy is an amazing coach and will have an awesome program, so I want to be up to par on the program’s [expectations]. It will be fun, but it will be difficult, and I like it that way — the games you win by ten runs aren’t the fun ones. The close, hard ones gets your adrenaline pumping and that’s what I love about it.”
She said her experience in other sports — specifically basketball — has helped her in her softball by teaching her leadership skills and how to be a good teammate.
“I really enjoy basketball and playing for Coach Martin, and it has really taught me to be a leader and how to accept a role. I played and got a lot of minutes, but I wasn’t a starter [previous to the upcoming season] and that was fine with me. It really taught me how to be a team player, so hopefully I can carry that over into softball as well. I love playing basketball, but I have had to work hard at it — softball just has always come more naturally to me.”
Humphry, who will be the only female senior on the Lady Rattlers basketball team this season, will see a starting role.
She also credits the “captain’s course” that was instituted by the MHS athletic staff and former South Pike County School Superintendent Roger Featherston last year as helping mold her into a better leader.
“It was a cool program that taught us about being a leader, how to be a captain of team, or the skills needed to become a future captain.”
Humphry said that her leadership skills on the field were one of the main attractants to Coach Nealy in her discussions with him.
“He was impressed with my leadership, even if I had a bad day on the field, which is something that has alway been really important to me.”
Humphry, stating that she doesn’t like talking about herself, says she is a “people person.”
“I like talking to people, encouraging people — I think that even in my younger years I took on the role of being a leader, being vocal. Even if I didn’t know what I was talking about, I would try and make sure someone else wasn’t confused. If someone knew nothing about me, I would want them to see the fact that even if I wasn’t having a good day, I was making sure someone else was.”
Humphry, the starting first baseman for the Lady rattlers softball team for the past two seasons, was the recipient of the BTB Attitude Award and Gold Glove award at last year’s sports banquet, as well as named to the all-district and all-region posteason lists. Humpry was named to the all-state team in 2018 as a sophomore.
“Sometimes we play people and they just pitch around me, and I’ve learned to watch for that,” said Humphry. “I’ve always been a power hitter, but I’m selective with pitches because I know what kind I can hit better than others. My on-base percentage is way higher than my batting average.”
As a junior, Humphry batted .317 in 86 plate appearances, while drawing 22 walks to give her an on-base percentage of .494. She also added six doubles and three home runs with 16 RBIs and runs scored.
To that end, Humphry said a personal goal of her in her senior season will be to achieve a higher batting average — something in the .350-.400 range.
“It’s just a personal goal, not something that has to happen. Coach Nealy told me to just have fun my senior season, and not to focus too highly on him not liking me, because he already likes the way I play, so there is no pressure there. The average is just something I look at and think ‘I can do better at this,’ so that something I want to do.”
Martin said Humphry would just have to pick her spots,
“A lot of teams would walk her last year with an RBI situation, even sometimes when first base wasn’t open — she’s such a selective batter, and would have led us in walks even without in the intention walks, because her eye is so good. She just knows the type of pitch she wants to be swinging at — you can get two strikes on her and she can work it back up to a full count and put the pressure back on the pitcher. A lot of times teams walked her simply preferring someone else try to hurt them.”
She said that defense was also very important to her, and she will strive to improve on that portion of the game as well.
“I’m a first baseman, and love it, but I don’t move around the field a bunch — I just do whatever I can to catch a ball over there — if it means getting in the dirt and doing the splits, I’ll do it. That’s the fun part [of defense] — seeing what I can do to get those crazy ones.”
Humphry committed only three errors as a junior, recording 209 putouts and 11 assists for a sterling .987 fielding percentage through 26 games.
“I was really proud, as the season went on, of her leadership and her consistency. Her defense simply makes our infield better than what we sometimes are, just with her ability at first to dig the ball out of the dirt,” said Martin. “She led the team in walks just because people wanted to pitch around her, but as the season went on — through state — she was one of our top at-bat percentages, and that’s just a testament of her coming off an all-state year, where you kind of hit a little bit of a wall and teams putting a target on you.”
To conclude, Humphry wished to thank her coaches and parents — those that have shaped her into “a player that could succeed.”
“I just want them to know I appreciate everything they have done for me.”
Martin wasn’t as willing to take credit for the situation.
“Madison is a stud because she is a stud. She got more reps in practice this year and we tried to put her in better situations — getting her name out there and sending her to places she would be seen. But Madison is known because of her play, and she represents herself well — people have had eyes on her since she was 12-years-old. [Her father] has put in a lot of work with her growing up … she was already skilled before we got our hands on her. Madison is where she is at because because of the player and person she is.”
Martin continued the praise.
“I wish I had more kids like her that understood the concept of success starting with your character, attitude and how you carry yourself as much as your skill set, either natural or work derived. You simply can’t teach 5’10, she has the physique to play division one or two college softball and moves she way she does — that’s just unteachable. She just has the intangibles that takes her to another level, be it in her leadership or her physical ability, added to her mentality … she’s just a smart kid, and uses all those as weapons. She will put in the work — I’ve learned that Madison is 100% consumed in whatever she is in and gives everything she has.”