Published February 22, 2009
Rich Thompson-An Aussie With A Good Curveball and An All-American Wife Part I
Rich Thompson-An Aussie with a Good Curveball and an All-American Wife Part I
24 year old Rich Thompson is a relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels. The 6’1” right-hander is a native of Hornsby, New South Wales in Australia. Thompson signed with the Angels as an undrafted free agent in 2002 and has developed his skills at stops in Cedar Rapids, Rancho Cucamonga, Little Rock, and Salt Lake City.
Thompson is not a major league superstar. Unless he makes a dramatic save in the seventh game of the World Series, you probably won’t read about him in Sports Illustrated. Although he is the 25th Australian to play in MLB, his stint with the Angels has lasted only 47 days. He does not make $27 million a year like Alex Rodriguez, he makes NLM, near league minimum. You will never see his name linked with performance enhancing substances ala A-Rod, Barry Bonds, or Roger Clemens, but that is another story.
Thompson’s story is that of a player on the bubble, a player with the talent to play in the major leagues, but who is at the mercy of organization needs. One day he might pitch an inning or two of relief against the Detroit Tigers, the next night he could be in Salt Lake City pitching against Albuquerque, Sacramento, or Fresno. If he was a professional golfer, TV commentators would call him a grinder. His story is a common baseball tale, and part of what makes it so intriguing is that it involves another person, his wife Ashley. To know Rich, you have to know Rich and Ashley.
“I hear guys yelling at me out of a car and I think, ugh, I hate it when guys do that.”
Hot Springs, AR native Ashley Beck graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in 2004 with a degree in psychology. In 2006 she was working for Professional Counseling Associates and lived in Little Rock. “I didn’t know any more about baseball than the average American,” she stated. “I understood the game, but never paid attention any deeper than that.” That changed early in the spring of 2006.
When asked where and when Ashley met Rich, she stated: “We met in Little Rock, AR in April of 2006. I was walking in downtown LR, where I lived, with my dog tugging at one hand and laundry in the other. I was headed toward my car to go to a friend’s house. Suddenly, I hear guys yelling out of a car at me, and I immediately think: "Ugh...I hate it when guys do that!” I completely ignored them, but apparently they needed my attention because they pulled the car over to the sidewalk so that I couldn't walk to my car. All I thought at that moment was: "Great... I'm about to get raped and murdered. Awesome! What a great day... Bring it on suckers!!” But then... a cute guy got out of the car and I turned into the gushy girl I usually despise. "Hi, my name is Ashley, what's you're name?" We chatted for a moment and his teammate mentioned that they were baseball players, but I wasn't really concerned with that. I was more interested in getting my laundry done. It turned out that they were looking for a place to eat. They weren't familiar with the area due to the fact that they had just gotten to town after spring training. A few minutes later I found out that they weren't looking for a place to eat, they were looking for Hooters (of all places). I buckle and tell them to follow me there, because it's on my way anyway. We get to the Hooter's parking lot and Rich comes up to my window and says in his undeniable Aussie accent: "Would like to join us for dinner and have a chat?" I, in an abrupt response, say, "Um, tempting but no thanks. I have dinner plans." All-the-while with a smirk on my face like really?! You just invited me to dinner at Hooters.” Needless to say, for some strange reason I gave him my number. Honestly, I NEVER did that! What was it about THIS guy that was different? I wasn't even in a good mood... Regardless, a few weeks later he called, and a few weeks later I called him back. Finally, a game in May got rained out so we went on our first date. From that night on we were "us" and the rest is history.
Whether it was fate, destiny, or divine intervention, two people who came from cities 9,000 miles apart met in the most unlikely of circumstances. If Rich had been assigned to the Salt Lake City Bees, they never would have met. If Ashley had done her laundry an hour earlier, they never would have met. And don’t forget, if a Hooters Restaurant wasn’t nearby, they never would have met. “We’ve thought of this often,” stated Ashley. “We just find ourselves lucky. What’s the likelihood we’d find each other, but more than that, what is the likelihood we’d actually get along? We are both strong-willed people who know exactly who we are and what we want.”
More in Part II of “An Aussie with a Good Curveball and an All-American Wife.” Marriage, the minor league system, options, trades, travel, money, and schedules.
To learn more about the couple and how spring training is going for Rich, check out Ashley’s blog “Everyday Life” at: http://ashthompson.blogspot.com/