Softball sophomore Tami Wong on her pandemic hobbies and what might come of the spring season
Last year’s softball season was only nine games, and it was her rookie year, but Tami Wong still found a way to make her mark on the Washington University Bears. She started in all nine games and led the team with a .500 batting average, driving in eight runs and making it to the all-UAA team. But Wong is used to the spotlight. Now a sophomore, she grew up next door to Wash. U. in nearby Alton, Ill., and is currently majoring in Biology. She led the St. Louis area with a .625 batting average in her senior year of high school, and was named a St. Louis Post-Dispatch Scholar Athlete of the Year. Student Life sat down with Wong to talk through her journey to Wash. U. and her approach to this season.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
SL: How did you get into softball in the first place?
TW: My brother played baseball whenever we were like, really small. My mom didn’t even know what softball was. But I was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go hit the ball with the bat.’ So then she signed me up for like, you know, tee-ball, softball stuff. And then my brother actually doesn’t play baseball anymore. He plays soccer now. Yeah, I just kind of stuck with it. And it’s like a fun way to escape and just play. I met a lot of cool people through it.
SL: Was Wash. U. always on your radar as a place you wanted to come play at?
TW: Well, I always wanted to choose like a good college first. And I think I was really lucky to find Wash. U., which has good softball and school, so I thought that was really cool. And when I first came to campus, obviously Tempur-Pedic mattresses, I always have to mention that. And I heard the food was good. And then don’t we have a high ranking ResLife? But when I got here, it was super cool. The team was really cool, and it just kind of felt like home.
SL: That makes sense. Did you play travel softball growing up or did you just play for your school?
TW: Yeah, I started [travel softball] in 12-U with one organization I kind of just grew up [with], which is really cool. They really helped me a lot. It was a lot of traveling. I’d say it started probably at 14, maybe it got super serious at 16. I remember our summers were just filled with softball. Like every weekend, we’d go somewhere new like Tennessee, Colorado, Georgia, Alabama. Once we went to California, that was really cool. Good opportunity. Now we’re here.
SL: How has the softball team adopted its practices to meet the challenges of COVID-19?
TW: Well, I mean, we just want to play. Like, we just want to practice and we just want to get out there doing things. And we haven’t really been able to. I remember right before Christmas break or Winter Break and Thanksgiving Break, they cut us off at least two weeks because of COVID. But right now, we would be practicing like six times a week, but they cut us down to four, and working out time, too. So I guess we’re just doing as much as they let us do.
SL: What do you think the chances are of having a season this year?
TW: Yeah, that’s what we’re hoping. Technically nothing’s cleared yet, but we have a schedule set up, [though with] less games than we want. But hopefully enough. I think the problem is, [Softball head coach Michelle Venturella] explained this to us, is that most teams are playing all conference games and no non-conference games. But everyone in our conference is like NYU, Emory, Carnegie, so we’d have to travel a lot. So we’re just trying to find people who will take us as—like, this is kind of harsh—but as leftovers. We’re just trying to play any games that we can.
SL: How has it been for freshmen who came in and basically have just been doing remote school the entire time?
TW: Yeah, I feel really bad for them. But at least the freshmen we have this year, they’re super outgoing, super fun. So I [think] they’re okay, I hope they’re okay. But, yeah, I feel bad. They don’t deserve this. I feel freshman year was, like, really fun for me, so I feel a little bit bad that they have Zoom University now.
SL: Has there been a moment from the past year or even in the time you’ve been here—it could be before the pandemic—that you really enjoyed, like a memory from being with the team or being with your teammates?
TW: I guess there are a whole bunch of little traditions we do. Last year we did Friendsgiving, which we didn’t do this year. I’d say just like the little things we do, like we hung out together for Mardi Gras, that was fun. This past Winter Break, we all kind of wrote something that we appreciated about each other and sent it in, and we all received it in the mail. So it’s kind of like a gift giving season. But yeah, just the little times we can hang out are all fun just because it’s fun being around each other anyway, we kind of feed off of each other.
SL: Have you picked up any pandemic hobbies?
TW: I bake an unnecessarily unhealthy amount. I feel in quarantine I was like, ‘Oh, I saw another muffin recipe,’ ‘Oh, let’s try this cookie recipe,’ ‘Oh, let’s bake a cake,’ which I’ve never done before. But I mean, like you just got to follow instructions, I guess. So that was fun. And then I discovered a lot of music, which was really nice. Oh, and I also got a bad TikTok obsession. Like a really bad TikTok obsession that’s coming back to bite me right now. This might sound really dumb. There’s this one TikTok that was like, ‘Oh, if you laugh at this picture, then like your humor is broken,’ right. And it was just like a piece of toast on like, a cup or something. I don’t know why, but I thought it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.
SL: Softball is one of the smaller teams, do you see that as an advantage?
TW: Oh, I mean, obviously we want to have more people just in case of injuries and everything. But I don’t think it’s been super detrimental. Having a smaller team actually makes it easy to be closer with people. And like, forge those relationships better. So I think we’ve been managing. It’s always stressful whenever someone goes down, and you’re like, ‘Oh, we have literally one backup.’ But I don’t know if you know this, but we have like 10 freshmen coming in next year. So yeah. This might be our last chance of being a small team. So I guess I’ll enjoy it. But I don’t think it’s been bad. It’s been pretty fun. We’ve been pretty close to the sophomores or juniors now, like last year. And we only have two seniors, so it’s easy to all be together.
Our recent athletes of the week: