High school hitters dreaded stepping up to the plate against Ellie Magnuson — with good reason.
She had an intimidating fastball, a wicked curve, great control, deceptive change-ups — and she exploded with confidence. Her peers knew she was softball smart beyond her years.
Hence, Magnuson blew away 125 Coast Valley League (CVL) batters via strikeout in 89 innings — in her freshman year.
The soft-spoken scholar-athlete didn’t take her talent for granted, or rest on her laurels. Instead she worked diligently to establish credentials as a splendid softball pitcher — one of the best in San Luis Obispo County — and she was just getting started.
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She was the MVP for the CVL and for Coast Union her sophomore, junior and senior years. The team’s CVL record in her four years as the foremost hurler was 37-0.
In her senior year, Magnuson tossed five no-hitters in the CVL; her record was 9-0 with 96 strikeouts in 42 innings. Her ERA was 0.00. She was named to the SLO Tribune’s All-County Softball First Team.
Besides her family and her spot-on academic achievements (a 4.3 GPA her senior year; a 4.0 cumulative GPA all four years), softball was her life. A consummate competitor, she had a blazing desire to compete at the university level. Her loftiest aspiration was to pitch for the University of Alabama or Oklahoma.
Her parents, Kate and Mike Magnuson, hired a pitching coach, who taught her the craft of changing speeds without changing her pitching motion. Her parents took turns driving her to and from club softball games and practices — including numerous trips to tournaments and to club teams like the Salinas Stars.
Notwithstanding that she was offered scholarships to play softball, she began seeing her future through a fresh new window after visiting several universities. Her mother remembers that she was “wide-eyed” and “energized” by all the opportunities — as a potential incoming communications major — presented to her by Oregon State University.
Magnuson explained In an email interview: “Going from a school of 200 students to a school of 35,000 students was enough to intimidate me.”
But at the same moment she was saying goodbye to competitive softball, she was also saying hello to the next sports-related chapter in her life.
“I always thought softball was going to be my life throughout my high school and college careers,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade my softball years for anything. I love the sport, and I love the memories. I could have played in college and had it paid for.”
But OSU lit a candle for her.
“Softball taught me to be the person I am today … it taught me to persevere, to have quiet confidence, to work hard, to appreciate those around me,” she said. “Most importantly, it taught me to trust myself in my decisions — just as I trusted the pitches that I threw.”
Without a doubt she trusted her judgment when it came to attending OSU.
New sports opportunities
At Coast Union, without any formal training, Magnuson provided competent color commentary for several Bronco baseball games that were broadcast on KTEA-FM. She parlayed those experiences — as well as her writing skills and her knowledge of sports — into assignments for OSU’s student newspaper, the Daily Barometer. By the end of her freshman year at OSU, she was writing about spring football, softball and baseball.
“I knew sports was what I wanted to pursue,” she said.
However, Magnuson ran headfirst into the gender conundrum vis-à-vis being “a female in the male dominated field writing about male sports,” she said.
In the beginning, she said she was “stunned that I was told I couldn’t do something.”
But after a conversation with an ESPN broadcaster, who said she would be facing this challenge her “entire life,” she began to come to terms with the realities associated with sports journalism.
The ESPN broadcaster told her to let the not-so-subtle male-based bias “fuel me instead of burn me down. I really took this conversation to heart,” she said.
In her sophomore year, she was welcomed into the OSU Athletics media team. She was at home in the press box, she kept stats during games and attended press conferences.
“And most importantly I was able to network with some really big names in sports,” she said.
“I love the atmosphere and I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be,” she added.
SLO Blues “Press Box Director”
This summer, Magnuson is where she seems destined to be.
Her familiarity with and knowledge of sports opened the door for her to become an intern with the San Luis Obispo Blues, a baseball team for Division I collegiate players from around the country.
She is the “Press Box Director” at Sinsheimer Park in San Luis Obispo. She sets up the press box, plays the stadium music, including players’ “walk-up songs.” She also helps with the live play-by-play coverage of Blues’ games on radio.
That experience, in turn, may well push open another door for Magnuson.
“I realize this is something that I want to pursue in the future — so next summer I want to pursue an internship with a Major League Baseball team,” she said. “By the time I graduate (from OSU), I want to have a career set in mind and get started in my field right away.”
Fearless as a child
Kate Magnuson recalled — in an email interview — that her daughter “was fearless” as a child.
She was always trying to “keep up with her big brother Grant and everything he did.”
Grant, CUHS class of 2014, was a standout pitcher and hitter; he was the Bronco and CVL MVP for three years and was named to the Tribune’s All-County Baseball First Team.
On two occasions, senior Grant was twirling a no-hitter on the baseball field the same afternoon as his sophomore sister Ellie was no-hitting an opposing team on the softball field.
“She loved soccer, volleyball, basketball, and softball … I remember her playing three different sports in one day,” Kate Magnuson said.
Now, Kate Magnuson “could not be prouder” of how her kids have found success and how they inspire each other.
But she and Mike are not “empty nesters” quite yet. The youngest Magnuson, Spencer, a 6-foot, 230-pound football player, is entering his junior year at Coast. His coach, Charlie Casale, reports that he will still be on the front line, accurately hiking the ball to quarterback Emany Plasencia on offense, but is being switched to linebacker on defense.
“He’s the first kid in the weight room every day,” said Casale. “He’s quick, smart, and he is going to help us a lot in 2018.”