Lady Prospector Works Hard to Earn Spot on Varsity Boys Baseball Team
By: Apache Junction Unified School District
Hailli's field of dreams is to play varsity for the AJHS Boys Baseball Team.
The goal is one the high school senior has nurtured since she was five years old and playing "coach-pitch"
Her determination, positive attitude, and calm, steady nature have made her a natural leader, even when she spent most of her time warming the bench. She was the team captain of the JV team her freshman and sophomore year. She is the first to motivate a brooding player who is experiencing a slump, or serve as a calming influence when a teammate loses his cool. Her teammates, who she thinks of as brothers, jokingly refer to her as "team mom" because she carries a bag of extra provisions to every game. Her supplies include an extra glove, ace bandages, a backup uniform and even extra socks in case a teammate forgets some of his gear.
"It seems someone is always forgetting something, so I just like to be prepared," said Hailli.
Her favorite position is catcher, but due to a sprained ACL ligament she suffered during a game, followed by a car accident a few months later, Hailli has set her sights on other positions. Fortunately, she is versatile. Raymond Figueroa, her former coach, called her a "Jill of all Trades' for her ability to play a variety of positions. At 5'10 ½ she was one of the tallest players on her team. Her long arms and ability to stretch make her a natural choice to play first base, a position she hopes to play in the spring. However, she said she would be happy to play any position.
"I know I don't have the strength that the boys have so I have to work twice as hard to be competitive,"
"I'm not a homerun hitter, but I get on base. Often, the opposing pitcher won't pitch me anything hittable, so I get walked or hit by a pitch a lot. But a walk is as good as a hit in my eyes and it's important to get on base. Of course, I'd rather get a hit, but it's all about doing what's best for the team."
Alex Murphy a math teacher at AJHS who coaches baseball and football praised Hailli for her determination.
"She tries very hard, she gets along well with her teammates and goes the extra mile without being asked," said Coach Murphy. "She's very coachable. She listens and does what you ask her to do. She is definitely the type of player you want on your team."
This year Hailli has expanded her athletic endeavors to include participating as a member of the AJHS Cross Country team. She enjoys running but her eyes are still fixed on her ultimate goal – playing varsity baseball for the Prospectors.
"I thought long-distance running would improve my strength and endurance so I could be in better condition for baseball," said the high school senior. "My goal is to work harder than everyone so I can show my coaches, the team, and even the opposing team that I deserve to be out on the field with them."
It hasn't been an easy feat. Throughout the years some of the coaches and players were reluctant to have a female playing with them, but as a returning player, she is now a familiar face. The opposing teams have been the most hostile. She has endured obscenities, sexist comments and a constant stream of catcalls.
"I don't think it shows good sportsmanship or even common decency, but I can't let it get to me," said Hailli. "I don't want to be seen as a complainer. I just ignore it and try to stay focused on the game."
Her non-complaining nature carries over to life at school and the arrival of the new principal, Dr. Angela Chomokos.
"I like Dr. C and believe in the changes she has brought on campus," said Hailli. "I think enforcing the no-phone zones help us focus on what we are here to do – learn."
After graduation Hailli wants to be involved in sports, but in a different capacity such as sports medicine or physical therapy. Even as a 17- year-old she has experienced the joy of competing and the pain and frustration of recovering from a serious injury.
Hailli has learned to appreciate everything in life – even obstacles. One of her favorite sayings is "Life ain't always beautiful, but it's a beautiful ride."
As a senior, this will be the last year Hailli will have a shot to make the varsity squad. The course is set. The pathway to her dream outlined in chalk on a baseball diamond. Now she just needs to see it through. Baseball tryouts will be held Feb. 4.