Senior Athletes Reflect On Their Road To Becoming Softball Captains

Anna Gurskaia , Editor In Chief

Samantha Swenson (right) with teammate Mya Landry (left) junior year, varsity

Remember the very first time you tried the sport you play now? Over time many athletes get used to playing and it just becomes muscle memory. Still when they were younger they may have struggled with picking up the basics. For WSHS softball team captains, Samantha Swenson and Hailey Peabody, who’ve been playing together since the seventh grade, this was the case too.

“I started off playing t-ball when I was around four or five and started playing softball around six or seven. My dad played travel softball for years before and after I was born and was the one that introduced me to the sport. He coached me for a few years as well and I loved every second of it. He has always been my biggest supporter and I wouldn’t be the player I am today without him. He’s taught me everything I know and I will be forever grateful for him,” said Samantha Swenson recalling early memories of getting into the sport. For some people, finding the sport they love came from playing another sport. “I got into the sport from my old coach from when I first started playing basketball, and he said he thought I’d be good on the team. Since then, I’ve loved it and kept playing,” said Hailey Peabody. Through the years spent playing a sport, they have both learned skills including leadership and performance. Working their way up to being captains has also taught them a great share.

“Being a leader is super important to me because being a senior means that I have girls looking up to me whether that be my skill level or how I act on the field and off the field. I want to set a good example for them and show them that this can be something they get to experience if they keep working hard, pushing themselves, and doing the right things to get them there,” said Samantha. The opportunity to be a captain is something that many players strive for, but few have the chance to fulfill. The impact that they get to leave in the lives of the younger teammates is really important. “I think it also shows them that things are to be earned. I worked hard for my spot on the team and my spot as captain and still do and I want the girls to know that it’s not easy but it’s worth it.”

Hailey and Samanth have been playing together for quite a while, and have many memories to recall. Towards the end of 7th grade, when Sam was new to the West Springfield Lady Wildcats team, she was pretty nervous. The team was doing a practice drill on turning double plays and she got confused as to what her part of the drill was. “Hailey fielded the ball and threw it, and I wasn’t 100% ready so I brought my glove up a tad too late and the ball hit me in my rib and like 89% sure she broke it. I couldn’t breath for a bit and it hurt to stand up straight and I could only walk a bit. To this day it hurts to laugh or cough too hard because the spot it hits me is very tender when I put pressure on it.” The two girls are now very close friends and love joking about it.

Sam Swenson, 14 years old, Mittineague Park, freshman year

Frederick Roach, the softball coach, regards the girls as great players and highly appreciated teammates. “Hailey Peabody is probably one of the best hitters in the league and takes pride in her accomplishments. As a solid shortstop and a very good pitcher, she currently has a Batting Average of .588 which is awesome. She’s a solid two sports student athlete,” said coach Roach. Samantha is a great 2nd baseman and has done an incredible job. Her strong leadership skills have make it so that she is well received by her peers. “Samantha is currently Batting .343. That is a solid average. They both have been an inspiration to me and the softball program. When they graduate both will truly be missed by me and their teammates.” After working with them for years, they have made a lasting impression. “There’s one little thing that I will definitely miss…Not seeing Hailey and Samantha driving to practice or a game in Hailey’s cream colored VW beetle windows down and playing my favorite song by Tom Petty. ‘I Wont Back Down.’ It truly makes me feel great to see and hear that! I will miss it,” recalled coach Roach.

As the girls senior year of high school comes to a close, and they anticipate their last softball season throughout the summer, they look forward to college plans as well. Samantha plans on attending cosmetology school, along with playing tournament ball for another two years. She also plans on playing in a coed or even a female league sometime later on in life. Hailey is committed and excited to play softball at MCLA next year. Their advice to future athletes is, “ it’s all about confidence. Stay tough and try your hardest and NEVER give up. Softball can be fun but it also has to be taken seriously. Do what you’re asked and try your best and it will make things a lot easier for you.” “Don’t forget to ask for help and ask any questions you have. It is a team and we’re all here to help each other and build each other up.” Hailey advocates for being bold and not shying away from asking for help where you need it “Always keep your heads up whenever you make an error, in the end of error no one cares, you can always fix the mistake next time. Work hard for the sport you love; you can always ask people for help too if you need it.”