It’s been well-documented that Newton softball’s best player is senior shortstop Ciara Bryan. Flosoftball took it a step further naming Bryan to its First Team All-American team.
“It makes me feel happy because I know I put in a lot of work when nobody’s watching,” Bryan said. “I put in work with my dad, I put in work by myself, I’m asking coaches what do they see, I’m taking constructive criticism and when they call me that [an All-American] it makes me feel like I earned it.”
Bryan, who was named Region Player of the Year last season, hit .545 last year with 13 doubles, 10 triples and eight home runs. Bryan also qualified for state in track and field in the long jump, 4x100 and 100 meters.
Ciara says her accomplishments last year come from her hard work of hitting every day after school with her father, Miguel Bryan.
Speed, Bryan says, has always been her greatest gift. But her skills in softball came later through hard work and preparation beyond what the normal student athlete does.
“When I started playing softball I actually wasn’t good,” Bryan laughed.
Bryan says coming up playing softball. she was smaller, not as strong, but she was always fast.
“I’ve always had speed and that worked well. They needed a runner, I could run. If they wanted to put me in the outfield because they knew it was gonna get hit in the outfield I could run,” Bryan said. “Running and having that speed helped me to where I am now because the speed helped defensively and offensively.”
Miguel saw Ciara’s potential in her speed and decided to put her on the left side of the plate. Ciara was naturally a right-handed batter, but her father wanted her to be able to switch, but his decision was met with trepidation from travel ball coaches and Ciara’s mom, who Miguel jokes that he didn’t get along with for two years because of it.
“When that left-hand caught it was no turning back,” Miguel said.
During Ciara’s period of switching she also switched travel ball teams twice because coaches didn’t want her to hit on the left side of the plate (she ended up playing with Eastside star Caitlin Ray in travel ball), but it’s a decision that proved to be well-worth the contention.
“It’s very competitive out there and when you run across somebody that not only can run, but can actually crush. You’re like, ‘Hey where are you going to school at?’” Miguel said.
Miguel, who played baseball in college, says he makes sure Ciara is good at all of the things that he wasn’t as a player. He says that’s why she’s so coachable.
He took her to speed camps at the University of Tennessee and UGA. Miguel even retired from his job to hit with his daughter every day for two years and this is the end result. She’s an All-American and a UGA commit.
“Obviously you can’t teach speed but she’s a very well-rounded ball player. Going to the next level she’ll play wherever they want her to play. A lot of that stuff is not even coachable,” Miguel said. “You find girls that play rec ball and they’re good shortstops, but when you go to that college level you gotta be ready to play in the outfield. There are girls that play outfield in college that were infielders in high school ball. I just think she’s a very well-rounded player and she has all of the tools that specific college coaches are looking for now. Because speed’s not at a premium.”
“I’m proud of her. She’s done me good,” Miguel added. “It’s not just about me. It’s about her. If she chose not to play softball only thing as a dad I can do is support her. But i know that with all the work she’s put in with all the hitting and all the running and the long rides home with dad in the car I know she wants to go prove everybody that she’s worthy of playing Division I ball in the SEC. So we’ll see.”
Ciara’s not done yet, though. She has goals for this season that she really wants to accomplish including winning region, making it past the first round, getting named All-state and being nominated for Gatorade Player of the Year.
“I know I can get to where I was last year and hopefully go beyond it,” Ciara said.
When asked what she felt she needed to do to earn that nomination, Ciara remarked, “I think if I stay positive, stay a great teammate, continue to be a great captain and helping my other teammates as well as doing great offensively and defensively...getting on every at-bat. If I can be high statistically on the bases, as well as offensively and defensively – all-around. That’s why Gatorade players are Gatorade players because they’re good all-around and I hope I can bring that to the table if I can get nominated. I just gotta keep working really, really hard and put in work outside of school.”