Hailey Wood sat in front of the TV when she was 5, mesmerized by college softball. She knew right then what she wanted to do. On Friday, Wood’s dream became a reality.
The Lady Pioneer star second baseman signed her letter of intent to continue her career at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky.
“It’s amazing. I never thought it’d come true, but I’m definitely blessed it did,” said Wood. “I started watching college softball when I was 5, wanting to learn more about the game. I looked up to all of them. I thought they were all so amazing.”
Now Wood will join the ranks of the college elite next fall.
Her family, friends, teammates and coaches were all on hand Friday for the signing. Her current coach Gooby Martin was ecstatic to see Wood, the reigning District 6-AAA player of the year, achieve her dream.
“I’m excited for her. Anytime you get to go to the next level, it’s a big thing,” said Martin. “I’m ready to see her at the next level. They’re getting one of our best.”
Mojo coach Joey Golliver was coaching another team when he first saw Wood five years ago. He began pleading with her parents to move Wood to his travel team, knowing immediately Wood had what it takes to be great.
“Some people are great athletes, but they don’t have the heart. Others have heart, but not the talent. Hailey has both,” said Golliver. “She’ll run though a brick wall for you. She gives everything, every time.”
Wood’s relentless pursuit for a chance to play at the college level really kicked into gear in eighth grade. Always good, but never considered one of the best, Wood dug in and put in the work daily.
“I made a turnaround in middle school. I wasn’t the best, but I wanted to be,” said Wood. “I put in hours and hours of work every day and haven’t stopped.”
Wood started working with Bailey Dillender around the same time. At the time, Dillender was an assistant coach with Tennessee Tech University. Now in her second year as coach of the Patriots and working on her first recruiting class, Dillender returned to her old stomping grounds to poach her talented former pupil.
“Hailey’s been at the top of my list since I took over. I’m really excited about the opportunity she has,” said Dillender, who believes many from her freshman class could work their way into starting roles. “We want to grow and work to be competitive nationally. I think Hailey will help us do that.”
The University of the Cumberlands competes in the NAIA. Wood plans to major in sports medicine as she pursues a career as an athletic trainer.
Along the way, perhaps Wood will be the one on TV starring for the Patriots, inspiring the next group of great softball players.