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Heath's presence better late than never for Troy softball WITH TOUT VIDEOS

  • Troy senior softball player Sydney Heath committed to play in college at Michigan State while she was a sophomore despite not playing for the high school team until her junior year.

TROY – By now, Sydney Heath has probably been asked the question a million times, if not two million.

An all-state softball player who has signed to play in college at Michigan State, it’s the obvious question due to what has been an unusual softball career for such a top-notch player.

How come you didn’t play softball in high school until your junior year?

It’s not like something magical happened and Heath morphed from a nothing softball player into a Division 1 player out of nowhere, either.

Heath grew up in Troy and when she was younger often went to summer camps organized by Troy head coach Tom Calnen, who immediately knew that a unique talent was on the horizon and couldn’t wait until she got to high school.

“I got a chance to work with her and I knew how special she was going to be,” Calnen said. “It was a very late decision that I was heartbroken over.”

Oh yeah, about that part where Heath was going to be an impact player for the softball program the minute she started high school.

It actually never happened.

Despite already being on the radar of college softball programs, Heath decided to run track when she got to high school instead of play softball.

“I was doing really good in hurdles by eighth grade year,” Heath recalled before a practice on Friday.

“I didn’t know what sport to do. I wanted to play a college sport but I didn’t know if it was softball, basketball or track. I just wanted to do everything my freshman and sophomore year.”

Playing basketball certainly wasn’t a problem because it is in the winter, but with track and softball in the same season, one had to be sacrificed, and that sport was softball her first two years of high school.

So Heath ran track and was a valuable sprinter and hurdler for the Colts, although her freshman year was derailed by a broken ankle that also affected her during her sophomore season.

Heath was still involved with softball, competing in the summer and doing so well that she earned a scholarship offer from Michigan State during the summer of her sophomore year.

While it might be incredible to some that a player can earn a Division I college scholarship to play a sport they hadn’t even played in high school yet, it actually is very believable to many coaches who know the cold reality that college coaches pay more attention to what goes on with a prospect over the summer than their high school careers.

“They were totally fine with it,” Heath said. “They said they liked three-sport athletes. I didn’t have a problem with any college coaches.”

But following her sophomore season, the softball itch became too big of one to avoid scratching any longer.

As heartbroken as Calnen was Heath’s freshman year when she told him she wasn’t going to play for him, he was equally elated at the start of her junior year of school when she went up to Calnen and told her she was in.

Heath’s ankle was affecting her ability on the track, but mainly she knew softball was her college calling card, had a lot of friends on the team and felt it was time to reunite with Calnen.

“I really wanted to play softball and became passionate about it,” Heath said.

So for the past two years, Heath has been a left-handed hitting menace at the top of the lineup for Troy with her track speed and pure power.

Last season, she hit .496 with six home runs, 20 stolen bases and 52 RBI and is off to a great start this season with a .459 batting average, four home runs, 14 RBI and a .535 on-base percentage going into this weekend’s Michigan Stars tournament.

If there was a turning point in her softball career, it came when she was in eighth grade.

Heath had always been a right-handed hitter growing up when a hitting coach came up with the idea that she should bat left-handed, which would allow her to become a better slap hitter and take advantage of her fleetness.

“My love for softball started in eighth grade when I started slapping,” said Heath, who does everything else in life right-handed. “That is when I became in love with it. I loved softball when I started slapping because I knew I had the speed for it.”

Even though she could easily look back on it now and wish she played softball her first two years of high school, Heath said she wouldn’t take anything back.

“I don’t have any regrets,” Heath said. “I learned how to do my jumps (in track) better and met more people. I don’t regret it at all.”

Calnen obviously wishes she could’ve had Heath for four years, but as has been proven the past two years, having Heath for two years has been better than none at all.

“I knew how good this kid was going to be and was,” Calnen said. “So far she has taken off.”

Last Updated: 5/5/2014 4:25:59 AM EST


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