For three former Eastside Eagle softball players, their on-field careers are quickly approaching the final inning. Four years ago, Eagle teammates Amanda Hawkins, Taylor Causey and Erin Steele were seniors looking forward to their 2012 graduation day and nervously anticipating what awaited them in the fall when they would each begin playing softball for their respective colleges. Each had already celebrated their accomplishment of receiving a college scholarship earlier in the year with a signing day ceremony surrounded by family, friends, coaches and teammates.
Amanda Hawkins would head to Dahlonega to play for the University of North Georgia Nighthawks, Taylor Causey would become a Golden Tiger joining the roster of Brenau University in Gainesville and Erin Steele would travel south to Americus to attend Georgia Southwestern State University and play for the Hurricanes. All three women are now seniors at their respective schools and as the softball season comes to an end this spring, so too will their softball careers. While it is quite an honor to make the roster as a college freshman, it is quite another accomplishment to play all four years throughout your college career. This trio has avoided the pitfalls of injury, poor grades, drama and burn-out that lead to an early end for many a softball player. The Covington News caught up with the women and asked them to reflect on their softball careers.
COVINGTON NEWS: What was your fondest memory from your playing days at Eastside High School?
HAWKINS-CAUSEY-STEELE: Without hesitation, all three shared the same memory from their junior year when they traveled to Worth County as huge underdogs in the “Sweet 16” round of the State Tournament. Greeted with “Murder Eastside” signs on the fence entering the field and a row of pickup trucks backed up to the outfield fence and filled with rowdy fans, the Eastside team played some of the best softball of their lives to sweep their way into a trip to Columbus for the “Elite 8” tournament.
COVINGTON NEWS: What event/memory from travel ball stands out to you?
HAWKINS: The opportunity to travel all over the United States. Traveling throughout the Southeast, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and California changed my life.
CAUSEY: Playing in the Hall of Fame Tournament in Oklahoma City in the same stadium where the Women’s College World Series is played.
STEELE: I enjoyed the travel and playing at high level tournaments in New York, Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma and California. I also remember meeting Jennie Finch when she spoke at the opening ceremony for the National Tournament in Huntington Beach, Califonia.
COVINGTON NEWS: What did college softball bring into your life?
HAWKINS: Through college softball I have come to understand the true definition of dedication, work ethic and teamwork. I also have a new perspective on the definition of family. Over the course of my college career I have made multiple lifetime friends, been a part of two Peach Belt Conference championships, two Peach Belt Conference tournament championships and an NCAA Div.II National Championship. College softball has been one of the most impactful teachers in my life.
CAUSEY: College softball has introduced me to roommates and friends that I will carry with me forever. From a practical standpoint, I have learned time management skills that have contributed greatly to my academic success.
STEELE: Through softball I have learned to be a leader, a team player and someone who is responsible and dependable. College softball has taught me to deal with difficult times both on and off the field. But most importantly, softball has brought me some of my best friends. The memories and relationships that I’ve built with my teammates are the best things that college softball has given me.
COVINGTON NEWS: Besides your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your softball career?
HAWKINS: Every teammate and coach has had the biggest influence on my career. I have been able to respectively compete, share many laughs, painful tears and create memories to last a lifetime with each and every one of them.
CAUSEY: My teammates of every team I’ve been a part of have been my biggest influence. They have kept me laughing and going through the good and bad games. They are my family to this very day.
STEELE: My first travel ball coach Danny League had the biggest influence on my softball career. He took me from the Newton County Recreation League and introduced me to the entirely different world of travel softball. Without him, I would never have known that the sport of softball would be something that I could work at and improve my skills to the point of earning a college scholarship. He is the reason that my softball career took a different direction than just being a hobby.
COVINGTON NEWS: What do you know now that you wish you had known 4-5 years ago?
HAWKINS: I wish I had known that playing NCAA Division II softball is just as competitive and physically and mentally rewarding as playing Division I softball.
CAUSEY: I wish that I had known that softball really isn’t “everything” when it comes to your college days. I love softball and it helped pay for my education, but your academics need to be your number one priority because when you have played your last game and the last pitch has been thrown, you will still need your college degree to be successful.
STEELE: I wish that I had known more about the recruiting process and been able to eliminate the mystery that goes along with being recruited. It would have allowed me to look at the softball programs differently. I also now know that college softball is HARD. It takes a level of hard work and dedication that you just don’t realize until you get there.
COVINGTON NEWS: What has been the biggest accomplishment of your college career?
HAWKINS: Keeping the HOPE scholarship and graduating on time. These are two things that are incredibly difficult for any college athlete to maintain. I am proud of my academic performance throughout college as I have maintained a GPA of 3.0 or higher and will be graduating on time.
CAUSEY: Successfully completing my college degree while playing the sport that I love.
STEELE: Maintaining my grades and being named to the Peach Belt Conference All-Academic Softball Team for the past three years. Because you must maintain a GPA of 3.30 or higher and be a starter, it shows that I am not only doing things right on the field, but off the field as well.
COVINGTON NEWS: What is your college major and why did you make your choice?
HAWKINS: I am studying Business Marketing, and I chose that field because of the broadness and creativity allowed within the profession. Marketing offers limitless creativity.
CAUSEY: I am a Health Science Pre-Physical Therapy Major. I chose PT because I have been in and out of PT my whole life. So the ability to help others regain their strength and return to everyday activities is a way of giving back to people.
STEELE: I am an English Education major, and I chose that field because I have always loved working with people. Several teachers had a huge impact on the type of student and person that I would like to be and also influenced my decision. Teachers have a lot of responsibility to their students, and I admire that about them.
COVINGTON NEWS: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
HAWKINS: Change is the only constant that we have in life, especially in the game of softball. In order to truly reach your potential as an individual, you have to be willing to accept change and learn how to work through it, whether it be softball or life.
CAUSEY: Work hard and do what you know. Prove those wrong who said that you couldn’t do it.
STEELE: Jennie Finch was giving a speech at opening ceremonies for Nationals and was speaking about all of the children she sees that cannot walk, talk, see or even breathe on their own and how difficult their lives are. She then said “If the biggest problem in your life is that you keep striking out or can’t quite throw a pitch well, then you don’t have any problems in your life.” Softball is important, but it is just a game and life around us still goes on, so don’t get too caught up in wins, losses and personal stats.
COVINGTON NEWS: What advice do you have for young softball recruits?
HAWKINS: My advice would be the same advice that I received in college. Change is the only constant in life. The game will change constantly. Whether it be a home run, an error or a rain delay. Life will also be full of changes, whether it be a breakup, a new school or a death in the family. Softball will teach you how to prepare for and handle changes in your life. In the end, it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about learning. And that is what makes softball and life so beautiful in its own unique way.
CAUSEY: You can do anything that you set your mind to. Nothing worth having comes easy, and listen to those around you that have experience because they may know a thing or two. Learn how to take constructive criticism. It will be the best decision you will ever make to become coachable. Make sure that you love the game enough to devote the time, energy and sacrifice to your social life required to be successful.
STEELE: Work hard! In college, every girl was the best player on their high school team and you will be competing with and against them for your spot. You have to have talent to compete at the next level, but you also need to have heart. College softball is not something that you do on weekends, it is every single day and it becomes like a job. And like any job, you have to love it to keep going. Be a good teammate – that is what everybody will remember once the season has ended.
COVINGTON NEWS: Will softball be a part of your life in the future?
HAWKINS: Softball will always be a part of my life. I plan on pursuing sports marketing, allowing my children to experience softball and forever reminiscing on the days where “athlete” was part of my name.
CAUSEY: I would love to teach pitching lessons after I graduate. And also, to my future kids, I would love for my son or daughter to play baseball or softball.
STEELE: I am sure it will be. I would love to dive into the coaching side of the game. I coached some of the Eastside girls in a summer league and loved it. I can absolutely see myself coaching, and who knows, maybe I’ll find myself coaching against my former teammates.
As a catcher, Amanda Hawkins has a career batting average of .273 with 12 hits in 63 games. Hawkins amassed 263 putouts and maintained a .989 fielding percentage. Pitching in the circle, Taylor Causey has a career ERA of 3.56 with a 7-6 win-loss record over 41 appearances accompanied by a .926 fielding percentage. Causey also had a .233 batting average with 7 hits in 30 at-bats during the 70 games in which she played. Outfielder, Erin Steele carries a career batting average of .275 with 84 hits in 143 games for the Hurricanes. Steele also had 25 stolen bases and maintained a .954 fielding percentage.
At the time of this writing, eachEach of the women’s respective teams have only a few remaining games in the regular season. Georgia Southwestern will be fighting to play their way into the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. Brenau University is currently 23rd in the national NAIA rankings and is poised to play some additional post-season games. The University of North Georgia sits atop the Peach Belt Conference and is 6th in the NCAA Div. II national rankings. UNG will also see post-season play as they look to defend their national title and repeat as champs.