Believe it or not, there once was a time where Ashley Eckstein would have liked nothing better than to be a baseball player.
“I played baseball,” she says matter-of-factly. “I was the only girl on my Little League team. The reason is my older brother played baseball and I wanted to be just like him. I was also fortunate because my cousin worked for the Braves, who were the closest team at the time. Once a year I would get to a Braves game. We also had a minor league team in Tampa Bay when I was growing up. I was on field as soon as I could play T-Ball. In fact, I kicked and screamed when they literally dragged me into girl’s softball. The reason they sent me there is I was so tiny all the boys towered over me and my parents were afraid I was going to get hurt.”
This love of baseball goes way beyond her now being married to current San Diego Padre David Eckstein. She sees some of America’s past time in the character she plays on Star Wars: Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano.
“I definitely relate to Ahsoka in a lot of ways,” says Eckstein. “Now I’ve grown and become more of a girly girl, but at times deep down we’re both tomboys. Ahsoka is who I was when I was her age, 14. You couldn’t get me to wear a dress. I just wanted to be like my older brother and hang with the boys.
“Because she’s so small, I think second base; second or short. She’s such a spark plug, agile and cat-like she would be a natural. She can jump and dive, so she can definitely handle the double play. It fits her temperament, and not only because she’s such a sparkplug. She’s also very smart. She knows how to strategize. That’s something I didn’t even understand until I met my husband. I love baseball, but I was just a casual fan. He taught me just how much strategy goes into the game. Now I’m a total baseball junkie so I really appreciate strategy. In fact, I was taught a lot of it by Mr. La Russa (a.k.a, Tony, Eckstein's former manager on the St. Louis Cardinals). Suffice it to say, ESPN is on constantly in our house.
Then there’s the entertainment aspect of her family. Even though she was born in Louisville, Kentucky, Eckstein states she basically grew up in Orlando, Florida. To top it, her dad actually worked for Disney. Whether this is coincidental or not, what does matter is Eckstein eventually landed a regular role on the Disney series That’s So Raven.
Now, of course, she’s the voice of Anakin Skywalker’s padawan. She’s definitely enjoying the part.
“It’s amazing!” she exclaims. “I’m working with Matt Lanter and James Arnold Taylor. You add in Corey Burton, Dee Bradley, Tom Kane and some of the others I work with, it’s like taking a master class in voiceover. I’m still striving to have a career like them. I’m very fortunate that in one of my first projects I get to work directly with so many of them. So when I’m with James, I just try to suck in as much knowledge as I can. Then I can use that knowledge to build a career like theirs.
“What you guys don’t get to see is what these guys get to do when they’re not recording. All the voices they do are unbelievable. It’s so much fun. I pinch myself when I think this is my job.”
Making her even happier is the series was renewed even before the first season was over.
“I was on cloud nine,” says Eckstein. “It’s well known that you can have a great show but not know it for sure until the ratings come in. To be renewed even before we finished the first season, thanks to such an amazing reaction from the fans, I now hope that we have the ability to air the entire Clone Wars story.”
From the looks of things, we should see some change to Ahsoka in the year to come, too.
“We’re about halfway through recording season two,” says Eckstein. “It’s something Dave Filoni working really hard on. I think fans are already starting to see a progression in season one, especially if they consider the original movie. If you check her out from there to Ryloth, you’ll see she’s improved a lot.
“I think one thing fans has to remember, is yes, when we first met her she’s very young and chippy. As the show progresses, she’s going to mature. The Clone Wars is going to take its toll. I ask fans just to be patient and watch the process. With Season Two you’re going to see she’s grown a lot. She’s going to be one tough cookie by the time it’s over. By the end of the season, you won’t want Ahsoka coming after you. The fact is she’s becoming more and more like Anakin every day. She takes on his fighting style. She also gets more hot tempered.”
In the meantime, Ashley will bask in the glow of a day game and fan adoration.
“It was definitely nerve wracking at first,” says Eckstein, “because every fan has their opinion. I will say I was always a Star Wars fan, I love the movies, but I didn’t know that much about Star Wars fandom. I had no idea of the sheer number of fans and conventions. So I was a bit scared at first and meeting them for the first time it was definitely nerve wracking.
“Still I have to admit now that the fans are so kind and generous to me. When I went to my first convention in Dallas, my husband and I were so warmly welcomed, and it was just one fan after another welcoming us. I look forward to meeting more.”