Fastballs, change-ups, screw balls and curve balls pulsed through Halley Jones’ veins at birth. Softball was in her blood. The game is her life.
Jones, a senior at Spring Lake Park High School, is the Panthers’ ace on the mound and has been playing fastpitch since she was a little girl. Her dad was a minor league baseball player in his younger years; her mom played fastpitch softball all through high school and college.
Always determined to toe the pitching rubber and deliver her best, Jones began her fastpitch softball career at age 6 when she played 10U ball with her older sister.
“I tried T-ball when I was 3-4 years old, then slow pitch when I was 5 but even then, as little as I was, I didn’t like the pace, wanted something more. So when the opportunity came to play fastpitch with the 10U team I couldn’t pass it up,” Jones said.
That opportunity came when her dad, the coach of that 10U team, invited his youngest child to play on the team. By age 8, Jones wasn’t just part of the fastpitch line-up, she was training under the direction of Windmill Factory pitching coach Amy Huett. Jones has been training with Huett ever since.
“We work on strength for pitching, speed for pitching, mechanics, everything,” Jones said.
And as she works on her game, the Panther pitcher continues to affirm her love for the game.
“I love to have the ball in my hands when the game’s on the line. I love that I have to work hard all year … Pitching is a whole other sport within a sport. I just love this game,” she said.
Jones plays the sports she loves all year long, the first pitch of summer ball thrown the week after the final innings of the state high school softball tournament. Then it’s on to fall ball and then spending the winter months training before the high school season begins again.
“I just can’t get enough. I love this game,” she said.
Her love for the game was put to the test at the end of the 2016 high school softball season when she was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition in which blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and the first rib are compressed and blood clots form.
Surgery, medications and recovery followed and Jones said she’s back to 100 percent.
“It took some time and some work and it was a little frightening but I wasn’t going to let that stop me,” she said.
Stats prove her newfound potency on the mound this season when Jones pitched the Panthers’ five winning games. More than that, in her high school career Jones threw more than 800 strikeouts, chalked up more than 55 wins and posted an ERA under 1.90.
Though pitching at 100-percent capacity this season, another scare came a couple of weeks ago when the shoulder on Jones’ throwing arm was painfully swollen once again. Anti-inflammatory medications corrected the situation and doctors determined that the swelling was due to the emotional stress she endured after the death of her beloved grandmother. Thankfully, it was not another debilitating episode of her Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
Jones took the mound once again May 22 when the Panthers shut-out the Osseo Orioles 4-0 in the Section 5AAAA opener and advanced to a May 23 game against #1 seed Maple Grove for a chance to play in the May 25 section semifinal game.
The section championship game is set for June 1; winner advances to the state tournament.
Jones will play summer ball on the team she led to a 2016 Premier Girls Fastpitch national qualifying position and then on to college ball with the University of Nebraska Omaha.
“For my college career? I’d just really love to continue playing the sport I love for another four years. And then, who knows … I’d hope to make it to regional tournaments and I’d love to win the college world series, but we’ll see what happens,” Jones said.
Anything could happen and if she’s proved anything, the Panthers’ pitching ace has proved she can overcome any obstacle that might come her way.
With Jones’ high school career near its end, head coach Lori Lightbody envisions bright things for her future.
“She has worked hard and was determined to continue her career in college … We are happy that she has achieved that goal and look forward to watching her develop into a college athlete,” Lightbody said.