It started innocently enough with an enjoyment of a subject many students dread in grade school math. But while growing up in Wichita, Kansas, Erica Hampton had no idea the Navy would become her future.
Entering college, Hampton wasn’t even sure she wanted to play softball because she knew that majoring in engineering would require complete focus. “Going into the Navy just kind of happened. My advisor thought I would be a good fit for the program and she recommended me,” said Hampton.
Shortly after she completes her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at UIC, Hampton will begin the United States Navy Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate School (NUPOC) Program in January 2016 for Erica.
Hampton began playing softball around the age of five. She has played all over the field, but settled on being a catcher when she was recruited to play for the University of Illinois at Chicago. Hampton volunteered to play shortstop briefly her freshmen year after her teammate was injured.
“She was the one that came up to me quiet and mild mannered and said, ‘coach I’ll try’ and I said, ‘that’s awesome.’ So we put her out there. She’s always been that person that will do anything for the team which I appreciate very much”, said UIC Flames head softball coach Michelle Venturella.
Behind the plate this season catching, Hampton is considered the most consistent defensive player by her coaches and they’ve noticed positive changes in her at bats too. Coach Venturella said, “Her hitting has definitely gotten better. She put in the effort with our hitting coach and we are seeing those results this year. She is very determined.” Her slugging percentage is up to .280 this season while having a batting average of .247 and she has a near perfect fielding percentage of .953.
After being accepted into one of the most prestigious military programs in the country Hampton has grown into even more of a leader on the team than she was before. Coach Venturella said, “In fact the day she got back from Washington D.C. and found out she got the position she was just exuding confidence on the field and I just loved it. It was so fun to watch her, our whole staff noticed it.”
Described as a team player by her coaches, Hampton greets every challenge with poise and determination. She tries to concentrate on what she can control on and off the field and she has mastered the art of finding balance as a student-athlete, which should come in handy as she embarks on her journey with the U.S. Navy.
Officer Candidate School is located in South Carolina and from there, Hampton could possibly be sent to San Diego, California, where she toured the Navy’s nuclear power school before being accepted into the program. She is contracted to complete four years active duty and four years in the reserves for the U.S. Navy. Hampton said, “My leadership skills as a catcher and my ability to manage a busy schedule are skills that should transfer over nicely into Naval Officer Candidate School.”
Coach Venturella has complete confidence in Erica’s abilities and said, “When you think about the Navy and the responsibility she’s going to have I would absolutely put my trust in her as someone who’s going to be put in that position. I look forward to her protecting us and doing all those things. I know that she’ll do everything possible to be successful and I am excited for her in that role.”
To catch Erica in action check out the UIC Flames as they take on the Youngstown State Penguins in the Horizon League Softball Championship this Thursday, May 8th in Dayton, Ohio. The game will be streamed live on the Horizon League Network beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET.