Hailee Hollan’s body told her she was done with softball. Her heart didn’t get the message, and when the Tyler Junior College softball team opens the 2020 season in a couple of weeks, the former Hallsville High School standout will be back in uniform.
Hollan, who compiled a 48-1 record inside the circle and was one of the state’s most dominant pitchers during a decorated high school career, won’t be throwing pitches for the Apache Ladies this season.
She’s now officially “Coach Hollan.”
“To have the opportunity to be part of the game again is surreal,” she said.
Hollan is the Apache Ladies’ volunteer assistant softball coach in charge of pitchers. I’m no expert on coaching hires, but I’ll say this without hesitation: I’d let her coach my kid if I had a daughter, and it has little to do with her ability to throw a softball and make opposing hitters head back to the dugout with another strikeout to ponder and a batting average a few points lower than when they stepped into the batter’s box.
I don’t throw the words “role model” around often, especially when discussing someone so young (she graduated high school in 2016), but Hollan has earned that sort of respect for the way she has dealt with the curve balls life has thrown her the past four years.
She was almost unhittable from the circle at Hallsville. Hollan lost once as a freshman, going 8-1 with a 2.33 earned run average, and then didn’t taste defeat again the rest of her high school career.
She was 11-0 with a 1.15 ERA as a sophomore, 13-0 with a 1.30 ERA as a junior and 16-0 with a 0.87 ERA and 131 strikeouts as a senior.
Late in her senior year, Hollan trashed her knee. The torn anterior cruciate ligament forced her to redshirt as a freshman at Southern Arkansas University, and she later decided to transfer back closer to home.
Hollan signed with TJC, worked the knee back into shape and pitched four innings during the fall season for the Apache Ladies before the injury bug hit again.
If you’re not familiar with Thoracic outlet syndrome, it’s a nasty thing that involves the compression of blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib. Surgery involves the removal of a rib and some muscles among other things.
“It’s a brutal surgery, and it’s not a fun recovery,” said Hollan, who did everything she could to get back inside the circle and continue to play the game she loved but “I finally had to hang it up. My body just wasn’t able to do it.”
Hollan’s determination and love for the game is inspirational enough, but the before and after part of this story is just as important.
On top of being a standout athlete, Hollan has always taken care of business in the classroom. She has an Associate’s Degree from TJC and is currently a Biochemistry major at UT-Tyler set to graduate in May of 2021. This summer she’ll apply to a Physician’s Assistant program.
Hailee Hollan had dreams of playing softball in college. Injuries derailed those dreams, but because she took the “student” part of “student/athlete” seriously, more opportunities became available to her.
TJC has averaged 52 wins per season since the program began back in 2015, and they’ll probably win a ton of games this season.
But I’m even more excited that some lucky young ladies now have to look no further than the bullpen to find a perfect example of how to get up from life’s knockdown pitch and hit a home run on the next offering.