Editor’s note: This profile on Michelle Wong ’05 is the last in a 13-part series by Valerie Turgeon ’13 on the alumni who will be inducted into the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 19. You can read all 13 “Hall Call” profiles on tommiesports.com.
Michelle Wong ’05 played baseball in a league with all boys until she was in 7th grade.
“I was a tomboy as a child and a very competitive person,” she said. “I really enjoyed the boys underestimating my talents because ‘I was a girl,’ and then hitting the ball over their heads.”
Once she switched to fast pitch girls' softball in eighth grade, she continued to be competitive, and that fierceness pushed her to success in high school and at St. Thomas, where as a junior and senior she helped the Tommies capture two national titles and post a 20-0 postseason record.
“Not many players are able to end their softball careers with a win,” Wong said. “It was an unbelievable experience and amazing that all of our hard work and dedication as a team throughout the season paid off.”
Wong led the Tommies to a 159-25 record in four years as a starter (90-4 vs. conference foes), including a Division III record 43-game winning streak in 2004-2005. In MIAC play, the Tommies won three of four regular-season titles and both contested playoffs.
She broke the conference career hits record (241 in 181 games) and now ranks No. 2 behind St. Thomas’ Allison Wright. As a senior in 2005, Wong had no errors in her last 61 defensive chances at second base and struck out just twice in 170 plate appearances. For her career, she batted .410, had 102 stolen bases, 173 runs, 90 RBI and 33 extra-base hits.
A two-time All-America, Wong was named Honda D-III National Player of the Year as a senior. She also was twice named MIAC Player of the Year after she led the conference in batting average and stolen bases. She was on the Midwest All-Star team and had the opportunity to play against the 2004 Olympic Softball Team before its trip to Athens.
Despite her records, the accomplishments that stand out are ones that she shared with her team.
“My favorite moment was after we got the final out at the 2004 championship tournament,” she said. “We all were elated and rushed the pitching circle to celebrate,” she said. “It was an accomplishment that we all achieved together. It took all 28 of us to win that title -- not just the nine on the field. We truly got the best outcome we could have imagined.”
Wong credited Coach John Tshida for developing her –- and the entire team, for that matter.
“He is an amazing coach,” she said. “His knowledge of the game and dedication to his players is unbelievable. I knew I would learn a lot about the game, but I underestimated how much I would grow as a player and a person. He is the greatest coach I’ve ever had the privilege to play for and am fortunate enough to know.”
Wong continues to play her favorite sport. After graduating, she played a women’s fast pitch league in St. Paul until she broke her ankle in 2011. She now plays a co-ed slow pitch league with other Tommie alums. Some of her teammates, she said, are still her best friends today.
She has made a career working for a Park Nicollet Clinic in Minnetonka, having earned a doctorate in physical therapy from St. Catherine in 2008. She lives in Independence, Minn., with her husband and St. Thomas alumnus Matt Den Hartigh. She also enjoys boating, paddle boarding, wakeboarding and broomball.
The Hall of Fame induction “truly is an incredible honor,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to play for an incredible coach and amazing bunch of girls. It made working hard and striving to be great easier because of their support. I’m very proud to be a Tommie.”
As for her teammates, Wong quotes Deborah Miller Palmore, a basketball Olympian: “Even when you’ve played the game of your life, it’s the feeling of teamwork that you'll remember. You'll forget the plays, the shots, and the scores, but you'll never forget your teammates.”
“We all love the game of softball because it takes all team members to give it life,” Wong said. “I truly feel blessed to have played with all of you. I’ll always remember the impressions you’ve made, the relationships that we’ve built, and the great memories we’ve shared. I love you all so much.”
Jake Barkley 2003 Football
Nikki Conway 2006 Softball
Roman Cress 2003 Track & Field
Carrie Embree 2007 Softball, Basketball
Jane Gibbs-Becker 2004 Volleyball
Kristal Grigsby 2006 Track & Field
Andrew Hilliard 2003 Track & Field, Football
Diane Loughlin Urick 1989 Track & Field, Cross Country
Janet Nagle 2006 Softball
Steve Pignato 1997 Baseball
Isaac Rosefelt 2007 Basketball
Tessie Thompson 2003 Soccer
Michelle Wong 2005 Softball