I love the small town I grew up in, and I love Michigan
By: Alison Newland
“I love the small town I grew up in, and I love Michigan.”
Coming from a small town, family is everything to Alliance All-Star Ella Stephenson. Even now, when she’s in a house divided.
Ella certainly isn’t the only athlete in the Stephenson family. Mr. Stephenson is a Michigan State Baseball alum, and so it took some time to get him ready for the stands at Alumni Field.
“At first my dad was a little hesitant rooting for the maize and blue, but as soon as I got him some gear that said the word ‘softball’ on it (of course), he was all on board.”
Her two older brothers are also Division I baseball players, and they’ve been her biggest inspiration for as long as she can remember. Growing up watching them at the ballfield gave Ella the chance to find the sport she loves.
“If I wouldn’t have seen them play… I don’t know if I would’ve picked up a softball. As I grew up, I saw how hard they worked, how much fun they had, and how they got everything they put into the sport… It influenced me to get after my dreams.”
Being close to home was a big factor in choosing the University of Michigan for Ella, and knowing that she’ll get to look to the stands every day and see her family was a non-negotiable.
“It means everything to me. It really does. The thing I hold closest to my heart is my family.
While she was falling in love with softball, Ella Stephenson was also falling in love with Michigan. And of course, when you think of Michigan Softball, you think of Hutch.
“I look at the program Hutch has built… I see the way she has advocated for her players and for women’s sports…. I was truly inspired and gravitated to being a part of a program like that. I am beyond excited to continue the legacy she’s built.”
Ella will be joining the Michigan Softball Program under the leadership of Coach Bonnie Tholl, who played for Hutch and is going into her second year as head coach.
“I am pumped to play under Coach Tholl… [She] has been in the game a long time, and she knows what it takes for our program to succeed to our highest potential.”
Ella plays for the Turnin2 organization, and is incredibly proud of the team she’s played for the last seven years, and the way that softball is growing in Michigan.
“I’ve stayed with the same team since I was eleven, and having a great relationship with my coaches and teammates is something I value tremendously.”
Even playing at home, she never had to sacrifice playing against the best. Ella’s team traveled out of state frequently to see great competition, and the Alliance format has been another way to prepare for the next level.
“I really enjoy how Alliance sets up the national championship tournament like the WCWS (Women’s College World Series)/NCAA Tournament. It’s super cool to get a taste of what the future could be like in making it to the postseason in college.”
For smaller organizations in the North, there are a specific set of challenges when facing recruiting. The location, weather, and travel can provide unique obstacles for players from those teams. Unlike many other players who play with out-of-state teams during the summers, Ella chose to stay, and she’s never regretted her choice.
“I wouldn’t do anything different… I love Michigan, and I’m so excited to continue playing in my home state.”
Stephenson will play in the Alliance All-Star Game July 23 prior to her team competing in the AFCS.