Everyone knew what Whitney Hillman's dream was. And last Friday, they shared its realization with her. Thomson High School girls softball players and their parents crowded the media center at the school to watch Whitney sign with the Truett-McConnell College Bears for the 2009 season.
"It's a dream come true for her," Whitney's mother, Teresa Ashcraft, said with tears in her eyes. "She has dreamed of this particular day, sitting at that table and signing with a college team."
But Whitney's mother may not realize just how long her daughter has been dreaming.
"I always wanted to play college softball ever since I was able to walk," Whitney said as her teammates enjoyed cake in her honor. "I like to set goals so I can achieve them. And when I do, it feels really good."
She's been setting those goals since she played softball at the 7-8-year-old level, according to her father, Monte Ashcraft. Determined to become a starter for the middle school team and a freshman starter for the varsity team, the little girl accomplished just that.
"We're extremely proud of her," Mr. Ashcraft said.
But Friday's signing did not stop Whitney's dreaming - or her goal setting. She said she wants to "succeed in college and go on to play at the next level in a higher division."
A junior college in Cleveland, Ga., Truett-McConnell is in its fourth season of softball. Head softball coach Jenni Deitz was the inaugural coach of the college's softball program. Last year, the team was 27-24 with nine of those players returning for the next season. Whitney will be one of eight freshmen on the team's roster.
"(Whitney) is a catcher, so we're looking forward to her coming on," Coach Dietz said Friday. "She has very good blocking skills, and I'm very impressed with her character. She'll be a good fit. We're a Christian college, so we're looking for people like her. I can't wait to get her out there on the field."
While playing for Thomson her senior year, Whitney batted .381, drove in 31 runs, and had 32 hits, including 12 doubles and a triple. She scored 23 runs, walked 10 times and struck out six times. Defensively, Whitney threw out 17 of 24 runners attempting to steal bases. Whitney was one of six players to be named to the All-Region 3-AAA Girl's Softball Team.
"It's going to be a big loss, because she was a four-year starter. But it's something we want to celebrate to have a player go on to play in college," Thomson Head Coach Jason Osborn said. "(Whitney's) had a great year this year She stepped up her game as a senior. That's something you don't always see, because usually they get senioritis, or something. But she really stepped up her game."
Whitney said she's a little nervous to be going away to college, but has no worries about her softball game. She spent some time visiting with the team when she visited the college recently.
"I loved the community, and I felt right at home with the softball team," she said. "It's a dream come true. And I want to thank Coach Osborn for getting me out in the recruiting process, and my parents and teammates for always being there for me. And all the parents of the softball team for always motivating our team to do better. They'll be missed a lot."