MUSKEGON, Mich. — The word 'Competition' is defined in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary as: "Something that arises whenever at least two parties strive for a goal which cannot be shared."

In the case of father-daughter duo Jesse and MaKayla Thompson from North Muskegon, Michigan, it means way more than that.

MaKayla Thompson started playing softball when she was 5-years old.
MaKayla Thompson started playing softball when she was 5. She graduated from Reeths-Puffer HS in 2019 as the school's all-time strikeouts leader.
Jesse Thompson

In June 2019, the time came for them to settle a certain competitive score that they say has been lingering for a few years.

"I'm confident that I can strike him out," said MaKayla, speaking about her father. "He's confident he can hit me, so it's almost like we have to do this."

Jesse has coached MaKayla since she started taking an interest in playing ball when she was 3 years old. Even though nearly two decades separate them in age, Jesse still believes he can blow the dust off his baseball swing and make contact.

Softball has been MaKayla Thompson's life.
MaKayla Thompson says she learned everything she knows about the game of softball from her father Jesse Thompson.
Jesse Thompson

"She's competitive and I'm competitive," said Jesse, 36, who was team MVP for both his junior and senior years at Reeths-Puffer High School.

"MaKayla is good, but a strikeout won't happen."

Jesse and MaKayla have a lot in common. Both were standout athletes at Reeths-Puffer (Jesse in baseball and MaKayla in softball), each winning a district championship. Both were the ace pitchers of their staffs, and both are left-handed.

MaKayla Thompson (left) and Jesse Thompson (right).
MaKayla Thompson's pitching efforts helped the Reeths-Puffer softball team win the 2019 district championship in the MHSAA state tournament.
Jesse Thompson

In 2000 and 2001, Jesse was dominant on the mound, going 18-3 in his high school career. As a junior, he struck out 78 batters in 53 innings. He still holds the school's single-season winning percentage record. He'd go on to play collegiate baseball at both Muskegon Community College and Saginaw Valley State University.

Jesse Thompson was a star baseball pitcher for Reeths-Puffer High School.
Jesse Thompson was the ace pitcher of the Reeths-Puffer High School staff in 2000 and 2001. He was also team MVP each of those years.
Jesse Thompson

MaKayla was a member of the Rockets' varsity softball team all four years of high school. She's the school's all-time strikeout leader, fanning 1,153 opponents, ranking her 23rd in the state of Michigan.

MaKayla Thompson was a star pitcher for Reeths-Puffer HS.
MaKayla Thompson finished her prep career with a school record 1,153 strikeouts, ranking her 23rd all-time in Michigan in that category.
Jesse Thompson

"Sometimes it doesn't seem real but when you look at it, I actually did that," said MaKayla.

The reason why Jesse and MaKayla each developed into dominant left-handed hurlers could be because they're related to a professional pitching legend.

"Carl Hubbell is a distant cousin of ours," said Jesse, referring to the lefty whose heroics in the 1934 Major League Baseball All-Star Game have never been forgotten. "My mother is a Hubbell, so he's related to us through her."

Carl Hubbell was a member of the National League's New York Giants from 1928 to 1943 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947. 

Carl Hubbell - New York Giants pitcher (1928-1943).
Carl Hubbell was a pitcher. He's best known for striking out five of the game's greatest players, in succession, during the 1934 All Star Game.
National Baseball Hall of Fame Library

He is perhaps best remembered for striking out five of the game's greatest hitters in the 1934 All-Star Game: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Fox, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin.

"I was a baseball lefty, [Carl Hubbell] was a lefty, my daughter's a lefty and I have a 7-year-old son now and he throws lefty as well," said Jesse. "It almost makes you wonder if there's something there, right?"

Every kid wants to kick dad's butt, and MaKayla wanted nothing more to cap off her high school career by proving she could strike out her father.

On June 11, Jesse, MaKayla and a couple dozen of their family members and friends met at Legacy Field, which is the softball complex at Reeths-Puffer. MaKayla and Rockets' catcher Sydney Edwards began warming up in the bullpen.

Jesse Thompson wears his Reeths-Puffer Rockets baseball jersey.
Jesse Thompson decided to wear his Reeths-Puffer baseball jersey and a Saginaw Valley State hat for his showdown with MaKayla.
MaKayla Thompson (right) and catcher Sydney Edwards (left).
MaKayla Thompson (right) gets a game-plan together with her catcher Sydney Edwards (left) before pitching to Jesse.

"He's still got power but I don't know if he's got the power with the speed I have," MaKayla said. "1-2-3 he's out!"

Jesse took a few practice swings in the batter's box while remaining confident that his daughter won't get the best of him.

"She strikes out like 18 batters each game but I know I can still [hit what she throws]," added Jesse. "My goal is to hit it over the fence, to be honest with you."

MaKayla walked out to the circle while Jesse put on a batting helmet and began making his way to the batter's box. 

MaKayla looked in to get the sign from her catcher and said, "Oh God."

Jesse said, "Oh, that's close," referring to the short distance between the softball pitching circle to home plate.

The "Thompson Showdown" unfolded June 11, 2019.
MaKayla and Jesse Thompson decided to have their much-awaited showdown on June 11, 2019 at Reeths-Puffer's Legacy Field.

MaKayla got her sign, began her windup and fired the first pitch to her father. 

Ball one.

"See, she's afraid of me," joked Jesse.

MaKayla's second pitch Jesse manages to hit. It was a pop-up toward third base. It dropped a few feet fair in shallow left field.

"That would have been an out," said Jesse. "We have to keep going."

MaKayla and Jesse agree to start over with a 0-0 count. She throws a called strike.

"Alright, that was a good pitch," said Jesse.

The next pitch, Jesse swings and misses, bringing a loud reaction from the crowd that was watching.

The count is no balls and two strikes. 

She's one strike away from the 1,154th and most important strikeout of her softball career.

It wasn't meant to be.

Jesse connected with the pitch and launched it deep to straightaway center field and it one-hopped off the fence.

"Oh, that's a double," ribbed Jesse. "What's up with the strikeout?"

"Shut up," MaKayla said.

As the two were walking off the field, Jesse said, "Are you giving up?"

MaKayla responded, "You want to keep going?"

The crowd cheered as MaKayla turned and went back to the circle and Jesse re-entered the batter's box.

After two pitches, the count was a ball and a strike.

MaKayla went into her wind-up and fired it home. Jesse took a huge cut and missed.

Again, MaKayla had a favorable count, with her father facing his last strike. Her next pitch would definitely be the pitch she'd remember for the rest of her life, but for entirely the wrong reason.

Jesse made his best contact of the night. It only took a few seconds before the high-arching hit landed over the fence in right-center field for a home run.

"I gave him a few good [pitches] that I probably shouldn't have," MaKayla said after the showdown was over. 

"She got me a couple times because I swung through some pitches and popped a few up," Jesse said. "I knew what she was going to throw because I've caught her all these years."

Dad proved he's still got it after all these years while his daughter says she will show him her room full of softball trophies and honors whenever he decides to gloat about his victory.

"He can have this," said MaKayla.

MaKayla's softball career didn't end after giving up the home run to her dad. She'll be playing college softball at Division 1 Kent State University in the 2019-2020 school year.

"She's only going to get better while I keep getting older," joked Jesse.

As for a sequel to this showdown? Both MaKayla and Jesse believe it will happen.

MaKayla & Jesse Thompson hug after their showdown.
Dad got the best of daughter in the showdown, but that didn't prevent them from sharing a hug after it was all over.

"Yes, of course I would challenge him again," MaKayla said. "I know where his weakness is and what he can't hit, and he looked bad when he did swing and miss."


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