Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Kory Hayden Steps Into Justin's World

Mid-Major record-breakers may not get nearly as much press coverage or fanfare, but that's certainly not because their achievements are any less impressive. Kory Hayden's senior campaign was just that in 2015 - an impressive power show that saw her cement her name throughout both the conference & school record books.

When Hayden hit her 59th-career home run on April 11th, she became the Big South's all-time leading home run slugger. Hayden's eventual career mark of sixty-one would later be broken by fellow senior standout Megan Baltzell.

Hayden holds a spot in the conference's all-time top ten in both home runs and RBIs in the Big South record books, with a stellar 189 in the latter category.

Not just a slugger, and in a note that makes this reporter's OCD happy, Hayden got a base hit in exactly 1/3 of her official plate appearance during her career, giving herself a .333 batting average. Her stat line also includes a 0.660 slugging percentage and a perfect 3-3 in swiping bases.

Justin's World: How did you get started playing softball?
Kory Hayden: I got started playing softball when I was about 7.  I started playing baseball when I was 4 and my mom suggested I begin playing softball instead.  I was pretty reluctant at first, but I gave it a chance and fell in love with the game.  I bonded more with the girls than I did with the boys and have just loved the game ever since and everything that came along with it: the friendships, the connection with coaches, the incredible wins, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Justin's World: Why did you choose to attend Coastal Carolina and play in the Big South?
Kory Hayden: I chose to attend Coastal Carolina because, ultimately, they were the only school that offered me any type of scholarship. I actually denied the first offer they gave me in hopes of being swept up by a big time school.  Fortunately, that did not happen because then I never would have started my journey at Coastal. I emailed Coach Green, hoping they had any sort of scholarship left to give me.  Coach Green offered me the original scholarship from 6 months prior and the deal was sealed.

Justin's World: Tell me what you did and had to do to keep the even balance between the sheer power that comes with being an all-time great slugger and being a generally consistent hitter.
Kory Hayden: To keep the balance between being a power hitting and a consistent hitter, I knew I wasn't always going to get the best pitches thrown to me.  When they did throw to me in my hot zone, I had to take advantage of it and when they didn't, I just needed to put a good swing on the ball, put it in play and make things happen. Ultimately, it was all about patience after my freshman year.

Justin's World: What is your favorite moment or memory from your career?
Kory Hayden: Although many people would think my favorite memory would be breaking the Coastal home-run record, along with the Big South record, it's not.  My favorite memory of all-time is from my freshman year when we won the Big South Championship.  Being a part of the NCAA tournament is every little girl’s dream, including myself.  It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had and will remember it for the rest of my life.  Records can be broken, but no one can ever take away the Big South Championship we won in 2012.

Justin's World: When you are in the midst of a record chase, how do you keep your mindset in check and concentrate on each at-bat individually?
Kory Hayden: Honestly, keeping my mental game stable once I realized the record was in reach was a real challenge. I constantly had to tell myself not to think about it and just let it happen. Once I got about 3 home-runs away from the record, that was nearly impossible.  It's something that I had to overcome, though, and just relax and let things take its course.  

Justin's World: Describe the scenario, moment, and what went through your mind when you hit the record-breaker, #59.
Kory Hayden: The only thing I could think about was that a moment like that happens once in a lifetime. What made it even more special was that the game happened to be aired on ESPN that day and all my family that can't make any of my games still got to see it happen. I knew Megan Baltzell would probably break that record within a few days or weeks, but being able to say I held that accomplishment for a week is something a lot of people cannot say. It was an incredible feeling.

Justin's World: After tying the record, was the pressure to break it greater, the same, or less so?
Kory Hayden: The pressure was about the same; the only difference this time was knowing I was capable of breaking records, knowing it was possible for me to achieve if I had the right mindset.  

Justin's World: Tell me about your future plans, including involved with the game of softball and otherwise.
Kory Hayden: Right now I'm an assistant coach at Eckerd College in St. Pete, FL.  I'm getting my foot in the door of the coaching world and hopefully paving the way to one day be a head coach at a D1 school. I am volunteering my time right now in hopes of getting a paying job in the near future.  You have to work your way up from the bottom and be willing to volunteer your time just because you love the game and want to help young girls become the all-stars they can be. On the side, I work at PetSmart in the morning from about 5am-10am so that my afternoons are opening for softball practice. I needed a paying job on the side to help pay the bills and PetSmart ended up being the perfect fit with my schedule.

Justin's World: Say you were stranded on a deserted island for an undetermined period of time, but could take three things with you. No boats, no phones. What would you take?
Kory Hayden: If I could take 3 things, one of them would definitely be a softball bat.  What I would use it for I'm not exactly sure, but I would figure it out and take a few dry swings while I figured out ways to use it *laughs* I would also bring a fishing pole so I could catch some fish for food.  Not only for survival purposes but for enjoyment; I love fishing and fish off the dock in my back yard all the time.  The last thing I would bring is a mattress. Who wants to sleep on the ground?  Not this girl!

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