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CHS' Hill wins Dixie Youth Baseball Scholarship

Posted: June 18, 2013 1:05 p.m.
Updated: June 24, 2013 5:00 a.m.

CHS GRAD ALLISON HILL accepts a Dixie Youth Baseball scholarship from interim Kershaw County Recreation Department Director Shane Duncan (left) and Jay Bennett, a National Director for Dixie Youth Baseball Inc., at Camden High School’s Awards Night.

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As a seventh-grade member of the Camden High softball program, Allison Hill probably found herself taking a peak at the adjoining field and wondering “what if?”
A former Dixie Youth All-Star baseball player when she was 12 years old, the newly minted CHS graduate envisioned herself playing baseball for Denny Beckley’s baseball team.
Due to a quirk in tryout regulations, seventh graders are allowed to try out and, if selected, play softball for the Lady Bulldogs. In order to try out for the Bulldogs’ baseball team, a junior high school student must wait until the eighth grade. Never one to sit around and wait, Hill jumped at the chance to play for the school’s softball team. This came shortly after she told Beckley that she was going to try out for his squad.
Hill made the team and played softball for six seasons. One field over at American Legion Park, practicing and playing on the Bulldogs’ baseball team were some of her former Dixie Youth and Dixie Youth All-Star teammates.
“I seriously wanted to play on the Camden High School baseball team. I was, legitimately, going to try out,” Hill said. “Then, I found out you could play earlier in softball. Once I went out there and played softball, it was more competitive than i thought. They were serious about it. It wasn’t messing around.  Then, I grew to love softball.
“By the end of my seventh-grade year, I said that I was going to go out for softball again.”
Six years later, baseball and softball merged as Hill was honored by receiving a Dixie Youth Baseball Scholarship. The presentation was made to her by interim Kershaw County Recreation Department director Shane Duncan, who was joined by Jay Bennett, a national director of Dixie Youth Baseball.
It was Duncan who filled out the paperwork with Dixie Youth Baseball Inc. When he received an e-mail from Allison’s mother, Mary Hill, as to Allison’s being selected as winner of the scholarship, the longtime KCRD athletic director joined in the celebration.
“It made me feel like it was one of my own kids who won it,” he said. “I’ve been here for so long. When her mom sent the e-mail to me, I got excited just knowing that one of my kids (from the KCRD) received that scholarship.
“This is very unusual because, normally, we don’t have a lot of girls participating in the (Dixie Youth baseball) program. At the time Allison was in the program, she was the only girl.”
Thought to be a first for a female in Kershaw County to have won the award from Dixie Youth Baseball, the scholarship stipulates that in order to apply for the stipend, a graduating high school senior must have played Dixie Youth Baseball. Other items which needed to be included were scholastic and extra-curricular activities so that each candidate could be evaluated by the scholarship committee.
Hill’s baseball to softball journey began when, as a young girl, her father, Buddy, would take her outside and practice with her. By the time she was four, Hill was playing in the KCRD Tee-Ball League.
Hill continued to play against the boys on the baseball diamond in the spring and summer months. When she turned seven, her mother suggested that maybe Allison should expand her horizons on the diamond. The young Hill, begrudgingly, was signed up for and joined the KCRD softball league.
“I started making her play softball when she was seven and, she really didn’t want to do it because the girls don’t take it as seriously as the guys do,” Mary Hill said in recalling the scene that day some 11 years ago.
“She said, ‘Momma, they’re just out there to look cute.’ “She was pretty serious.
“I said to her, ‘Softball is a little different than baseball. It’s basically the same thing, but it’s just a little different and, one day, you might change your mind and you’ll appreciate knowing how to play both,’” Mary said.
“I just, literally, forced her to play softball.”
Still, Allison continued to play baseball and did so at an all-star level, earning spot on the 2007 KC Northern All-Star team alongside five boys who would go to play baseball at CHS.
What Hill enjoyed as much as anything while playing baseball was showing the guys that a girl could play the game and, play it a high-level. Saying that, Hill said she played the game with a chip on her shoulder.
“It was really fun. You had to work hard and, as the only girl, you really had to earn your place,” she said. “All the guys think they had a right to play on the field so, I had to earn my right to play on the field.
“I think they really didn’t accept it, at first. I was kept out of the groups of friends, but after a couple practices and they saw that I was serious about playing and I wasn’t out there for show, they started warming up to me.”
Hill was an outfielder, second baseman and a pitcher. When she was eligible to play on the Dixie Youth All-Star team, she was nominated and selected by the coaches. Once again, she felt she had something to prove since, as a coach of the championship team, Buddy Hill, would be the coach of the all-star unit.
“As a girl,” she said of being name to the all-star squad, “I had to earn my right. And with my father being a coach, I had to prove that I didn’t get on the team just because he was the coach. I had to prove that I had the skill and ability to play with the guys.”
Duncan said what made Hill a valuable commodity to her Dixie Youth and Dixie Youth All-Star teams was the fact that she could play wherever she was needed. “She was a great leader on the field. You could put her any position any position on the field and she could play there,” he said. “If a team couldn’t find anybody to play a certain position, she could definitely play it for them.”
When the Camden-based team took the field for warm-ups, the blonde-haired Hill stood out. She said she knew that opposing players and fans would wonder if her being on the squad was some stunt. Just as tough was seeing how the outfield aligned when she took to the plate for her at-bat.
“I remember them scooting in and thinking that I wasn’t going to be a good hitter,” she said. “Once I saw that, it egged me on and my wanting to prove this.”
And, did she enjoy proving people (i.e., the boys) wrong?   “Definitely. That was the best part,” Hill said with a smile.
Not one to sit around the house and watch baseball games on television, Hill said she would dream about having the chance to play baseball as she got older. Having been an all-star, Hill once told Beckley that as soon as she was old enough, she was coming to try out for the Bulldogs baseball team. The coach encouraged the young girl to try out for his squad when she reached the eighth grade. But softball beat Beckley to the punch.
“One day,” Mary Hill said, “Allison came home from seventh grade in middle school and said, ‘Guess what? You can go out for the softball team in the seventh-grade, but the boys have to wait until they get into the eighth-grade to play for the high school baseball team. I think I’m going to go out for softball; then, I can switch over.”
After a season of playing high school softball, Hill never gave baseball another thought. She made the team as a seventh-grader. She was growing into a young adult, as well, at the time and baseball started to take a back seat in her athletic and social life.
“In middle school she was not so much of that tomboy anymore and started changing into a young lady and appreciated knowing how to play softball,” her mother said. “Her skill came from those years of playing baseball with the boys and having to prove herself.”
What Hill discovered in playing as a part of Lynn Looney’s Lady Bulldog program was that softball at the high school level was serious. Not as serious as baseball, in her experience, but serious nonetheless.
“In baseball, I was used to that intense teaching. In Camden High School softball, it was more laid-back, but it was still serious, just not as intense as baseball,” she said.
“Softball coaching has a different technique to it than baseball. It’s not all in your face, kind of thing. It’s more telling you what you did wrong and doing it better next time. It gave me a different perspective on learning things.”
The adjustment from baseball to softball was made difficult, Hill said, due to the contrast in pitching delivery from the overhand of pitching to the underhand motion used in softball. She said it took her until midway through her seventh-grade season that she became comfortable in the batters’ box.
“The main difference between baseball and softball are the pitchers. You have to get used to the softball wind-up and getting your timing down,” she said. “With baseball, you don’t have that long of a wind-up whereas in softball, you really have to watch the ball and concentrate more.”
Playing softball also opened doors, friendship-wise, for Hill. Playing baseball, most of the friends she hung around with as a youngster were boys. Playing high school softball, she made friends both male and female as she met more and more people thanks, in part, to playing on a school team.
Since the Camden baseball and softball fields are located a few paces from each other at American Legion Park, Hill could not help but see what was going on next door at the bigger diamond nearly every game day or, practice session. And while she said she did miss pitching, something she did in Dixie Youth baseball, once she started playing softball, baseball became a distant memory.
“I loved pitching in baseball,” she admitted. “But after a couple years, it all dissipated because I loved softball.”
Allison Hill’s love for softball has continued to the point to where she will try out for the softball team at Lander College. It is an opportunity which she relishes as she tries to prove herself all over again.
“It’s very exciting,” she said of having the chance to continue playing softball. “It’s something I’ve done all my life; I’ve done it and I’m used to it.
“To know that I have the ability to play at that level is exciting … I just can’t see my life without it. It’s always been there.”


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