Sami Reynolds was a freshman or sophomore at Snohomish High School when after attending her first UW softball camp, she got a note from Husky coach Heather Tarr that inspired her.
“I don’t think I considered myself a good softball player at the time, but coach saw potential in me and she wrote me a note that said: ‘How good could you get with hard work?’” Reynolds said.
The answer is: really good.
Several years after getting that note, Reynolds is one of the best softball players in the Pac-12. The junior left fielder is one of the top hitters for the No. 6 Huskies (20-2), who open conference play at home against No. 7 Arizona (14-3) on Friday, the start of a four-game series.
Reynolds leads the team with 26 runs batted in, is second in home runs with six and third in batting average (. 413). Two weeks ago, she was named Pac-12 player of the week.
Reynolds said the note from Tarr is buried somewhere in her mom’s attic, but the message is still with her.
“I think about that note to this day,” said Reynolds, who was on the Pac-12 academic honor roll last year. “How good can I get in all areas of my life by working hard, in the classroom, in softball, in the weight room, with relationships — all those things.”
Tarr said the note was part of an evaluation that was given to players who came to the camps.
“I don’t think we had identified her as someone we were necessarily going to target, but it was true that we thought this kid is pretty special, and how good can she get with a little extra dedication and hard work?” said Tarr, who didn’t know until recently that the note had been an inspiration. “You never know what you might say to a kid that might literally change their lives, like a Sami Reynolds.”
Tarr said Reynolds’ swing, smile and the fact that she was from Washington stood out early.
But it might have been hard to predict that Reynolds would become one of the team’s top home run hitters. You would not look at the 5-foot-4 Reynolds and instantly think power hitter.
“I understand the sequencing of my body and I nourish my body really well,” she said. “I like to think I am a compact person. I’m small, but I am compact. And I understand the kinetic chain of how the body works and how the body generates power.”
Reynolds’ six homers is already her UW season high, but she insists she never goes to the plate thinking of hitting a home run.
“If I can put enough juice behind the ball and elevate it — cool,” Reynolds said. “Like that’s awesome, and I did my job. But at the same time, I am not trying to hit a home run. I don’t think any of us on this team are ever trying to hit home runs.”
Not even catcher Morganne Flores, who has 51 career homers, ranking her fifth all-time at UW?
“OK, maybe Morganne,” Reynolds laughed. “But she’s a beast.”
Reynolds said her homers are a surprise, even after she hits one.
“If I ever get that feeling of like, ‘Dang, I know that one is out,’ right after my swing, I’ll let you know,” she said. “To this day, I am still watching, seeing the ball go over and I’m trying to sprint to third as fast as I can.”
Reynolds is noticeable not only for her hitting, but also for the perpetual smile she seems to have when playing. If UW shortstop Sis Bates looks like the player having the most fun, Reynolds is a close second.
“I have so much fun,” Reynolds said. “Sis is like really good energy all the time and I think I feed off that. And she is the other person that I feel is kind of crazy out there, all the time. I can feel her energy at short in front of me. When I see her energy in front of me, it’s like, ‘Heck yeah, I want to get there to that level of energy and excitement all the time.’ I genuinely love the sport and being with my friends.”
It was not an instant love connection with the sport when Reynolds started playing at 8, when aunt Patti Lande started a club team in Snohomish. Her aunt promised trips for ice cream to help keep Reynolds playing the first couple of years.
“I am super hypercompetitive and softball is one of those games where you fail more than you succeed,” said Reynolds, who played for Lande until she was 16. “I was like, ‘Why am I failing so many times when I want to succeed every time?’ In my brain, I was a little hesitant at first and then I kind of fell in love as time went on. My aunt helped me really find my love for it, even if she did have to bribe me with ice cream.”
Reynolds said she dreamed of playing close to home at UW, and made an instant impact upon her arrival, getting named to the all-freshman team in 2019. One of her biggest moments came in the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City against UCLA.
In a scoreless game in the bottom of the eighth, it looked like the Bruins would win when a ball seemed destined for the gap in left center with a runner on second. But Reynolds make a fantastic leaping catch.
“I actually made a bad first step and I was like, ‘I have to catch this,’” Reynolds said. “Afterward, I think I screamed really loud. … I was so excited to extend the game.”
The Bruins won the game a couple of innings later, ending the Huskies’ season a bit short of the goal of winning the title. The Huskies are determined to get back to Oklahoma City again this year.
“It’s going to be fun to see how good we can get with hard work,” Reynolds said. “I don’t think any goal is too daunting.”