Don’t let the name of the game get things twisted for you — softball is the furthest thing from soft. This week, up-and-coming player Hailey Gearey, hailing from Montreal, spoke to us about her experiences this past year with the team, and what’s upcoming in the future.
An avid softballer since the age of six, Gearey was recruited not too long ago. Her first semester at SFU was just last year, in spring 2016, and she’s majoring in communication with an interest in pursuing a career related to sports media after graduation.
The choice to commit to SFU rather than another school appears to be have been cut and dry: “There were a few other offers, but I found SFU was more for me,” she said. “I checked off two of my goals. [. . .] It’s awesome [to] be able to represent my country and be [in] the NCAA.”
Of course, Gearey had some definite worries when she was fresh on the team. “I came in halfway through the year, so the team was already kind of made, and then there was me coming in.” But she quickly adapted to her teammates, which she affectionately refers to as a “family,” and mentioned receiving a lot of positive support from her seniors.
In particular, she praised one of last year’s powerhouse players, Alex Baylak, as a significant factor in her success and happiness on the team. “She was like an inspiration, a leader to me, and I really appreciate all she did for me. She was my throwing partner, my workout partner, and she helped me through my entire freshman year.”
Even outside the team, the sophomore has a strong group of people in her corner. “I FaceTime [my family] and talk to them almost every day. [. . .] They’re always encouraging me and sending me little texts saying they’re proud of me, so it’s good.” Beyond that, she also has support from her close hometown friends.
Being away from her home has been something of an obstacle for Gearey, but it hasn’t stopped her from doing well. She says her family said they’ll probably come out and watch her play in her senior year, and if flying out from Montreal isn’t the definition of squad goals, I don’t know what is.
Gearey noted that last year, circumstances pushed her to come into her own very early on — including a teammate’s unexpected injury. This meant taking on a lot of responsibility long before she thought she’d have the chance to do so.
“I had to really step up and [take over her position]. I didn’t really have time to freak out and be a freshman; I had to grow up really fast in university sports. But [. . .] I really like playing at the university level, it’s so competitive and it’s so much fun.”
That competitive drive and ability to prioritize really pays off, it seems, because Gearey now has a starting spot of her own under her belt. “I didn’t come in asking for a starting spot because [when] you’re a freshman, you have to work your way up the ladder. [. . .] Now I have a starting spot [. . .] to myself this year. I’ve worked hard enough to earn this and I’m continuing [to do so] to keep it.”
“I didn’t really have time to freak out and be a freshman; I had to grow up really fast in university sports.”
She intends to maintain that position, of course, but besides that, her goals for this season include being “big on the batting order” and generally being successful for her teammates’ sake.
“[My coach] has me in a spot that he won’t put most people into unless he has confidence in them. [. . .] My batting wasn’t my strong suit last year, so I worked on a lot of things, and now I just want to work towards being a better hitter.”
This year’s season started this Friday; their first game was against Western Oregon University. While complications from the recent weather have kept the team indoors and off dirt, Gearey notes that even though the situation can sometimes feel a little “hit-and-miss,” she’s confident in the team’s skills and in the technique work they’ve been able to do in the meantime.
Regarding which other teams SFU would need to watch out for this year, her response was: “Definitely Saint Martin’s University. Their softball team is really good. There’s also the defending champs, which is Central Washington.
Though Gearey did mention her interest in sports media, that’s far from the be-all and end-all of her future targets. She seems to know how to stick to her goals and make them a reality, so we’re comfortable in rooting for her when it comes to her biggest right now: making it to Team Canada now that softball’s back in the Olympics.
This season, it seems like SFU’s softball team is all set to do some extraordinary work; they’ve got good players from freshmen to seniors, and with the air clearing up and motivations rising, things look bright and uphill from here.
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