Monday, July 4, 2016

Genevieve Haney Steps Into Justin's World

In 2012, Carlos Gomez, then of the Milwaukee Brewers of Major League Baseball, hit a hooking line drive down the left field line of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The ball girl quickly rose from her perch and made a nice catch, earning praise from the Phillies' television broadcasting crew and making highlight reels galore.

Little did any of those folks know that that was far from the first impressive catch said lady had made on a hooking line drive. A former title-winning infielder for the Hofstra Pride, Genevieve Haney was one of the many stellar players to come through the Pride program under Bill Edwards' leadership in the mid-2000s.

A veteran of nearly 170 games for the Pride, Haney was also part of the supporting cast in the 2010 movie How Do You Know, starring Reese Witherspoon as an Olympic softball player.

Now Mrs. Craig Albernaz, married to a minor-league coach for the Rays, and expecting her first child in a few months, Genevieve shared her thoughts on several topics including:

  • Her thoughts on the dominance of Hofstra during her time at the school
  • Being part of a Hollywood production
  • Viral Internet stardom
  • What she's up to now
  • and much more!

Justin’s World of Softball: How did you get started playing softball?
Genevieve Haney: I started playing in house around the age of 5. At the time, I was playing all your seasonal sports but it wasn't until I was around 8 that I played for my first Travel team.

JWOS: What led you to Hofstra as the place to play ball and go to school?
Genevieve Haney: I was looking at several schools, not only for their softball program but for their Fine Arts Programs. Hofstra had an amazing Art Studies program, a top-notch Division 1 softball program and with it being so close to NYC, it met all of the criteria I was looking for AND MORE in a University.

JWOS: Tell me about playing for Coach Edwards.
Genevieve Haney: Coach not only taught us about the game of softball, but prepared us for life after college. He held us accountable and worked with us to be the best student-athletes that we could be. There was a rhyme and reason for everything and his ability to field a team of girls who clicked so well was one of the many things he was amazing at.

JWOS: What is your favorite memory from your career?
Genevieve Haney: At the time when our class graduated in 2008, we held the record for most wins at our school and were the only team to win consecutive championships four years in a row. My favorite memories were holding up that plaque four years in a row, hosting 3 NCAA regionals, and playing the best of the best.

JWOS: You come from an athletic family, with a couple of brothers that played college football... backyard sports must have been fun as kids.
Genevieve Haney: I am the only girl of five kids, so to say I was a tom boy growing up is putting it lightly. We played outside every day until the street lights came on. And they still catch a bit of sarcasm when people say I was the best Haney athlete in the family, and me being a girl. ;o)

JWOS: Toughest opponent you ever faced, either a single individual or a team?
Genevieve Haney: Arizona, 2008 Regionals

JWOS: Talk to me about the dominance that the Pride were steadily gaining throughout the course of your career, dominance that has continued on even to more recent years.
Genevieve Haney: Four conference titles in your four years at the school is pretty darn impressive. As I stated above, Coach and Larissa did a phenomenal job recruiting and taking pride in finding players from the east coast who were coachable, hard-working and ready to put up a fight.  Their knowledge of the game, starting with fundamentals, is what makes the Pride so unique. My first practice at Hofstra was learning correct fundamentals all over again. We were taught that some athletes practice a skill until they get it right, but at Hofstra, we perfected every skill until we never got it wrong. Everyone on the team was able to step in at any given moment and get the job done.

JWOS: Tell me about the movie How Do You Know that you were able to be a part of. How did you find out about the movie, tryout, and become a part of the picture, and tell me about the filming process.
Genevieve Haney: There was an ad in our paper about the movie looking for extras and it just so happened that Sue Enquist was going to be a part of the casting call and training. We were hand-selected by the Producer, James L. Brooks, during a call back and it was pretty nerve racking! At that point, I think they were looking for different athletes to fit into different character descriptions and fortunately enough, I was picked.  There was a few of us selected along with some members of the USA TEAM, Crystal Bustos and Lovie Ann Jung to name a few.  Coach Enquist ran quite a few practices and scenarios with us and made sure that we were in tip-top shape for filming.  We filmed for about a week, staying in a hotel in Philadelphia and being bused back and forth to fields and production sites. It really was an amazing experience and something that I will never forget. We had some long days and tough hours of filming because 5 hours of filming a drill or game could only be 15 seconds in the film.  But you have to get everything exactly right, at each angle, for each cut. It can be tiring! It is no wonder these actors get paid the big bucks!

JWOS: I've got to ask, too, about your 'fifteen minutes' of being a viral internet star, after your incredible catch as a Phillies ball girl a couple of years back. Tell me about the experience, seeing yourself all over sports news broadcasts and online whenever you got on social media!
Genevieve Haney: That infamous day! Another amazing experience to be a part of such a first class organization. As a ballgirl, it is tough because at the time, I had spent 20+ years running to field ground balls and now I was supposed to pick up a chair and run the opposite way. Foul balls can be tricky and that game in particular had a rough start.  It poured for the beginning of the game and a few foul balls had already been hit straight into the stands. I feel like I knew that ball was coming to me and when it was hit, it felt like it took 5 minutes to get to me. I distinctly remember having a conversation with myself as the ball was hit, thinking that I was able to get it before it went in the stands. Watching the replays, I’d say it was a pretty quick shot and a humbling experience.

JWOS: Folks don't even get to hear about a day's work from the ballgirl's perspective - tell me what an average game day would have been like for you when you were in that position.
Genevieve Haney: Being a Phillies Ballgirl was such an awesome experience, I tell everyone I know to try out. You really just need to know the rules of baseball, be outgoing, and able to be an ambassador for the team.  Sitting on the foul lines during the games was only a small part of what we did day in and day out.  We were a charity softball team and played other teams to raise money for Phillies Charities. If you weren't on the foul line, you were helping teams, organizations and other groups who signed up to help us recycle in the stadium. We would collect cans and bottles and help have a huge impact on the Phillies’ Red Goes Green initiative. We would attend local events, schools, hospitals, weddings, and birthdays with the Phanatic to sign cards and interact with fans.  One of my favorite events was visiting this gentleman in a nursing home who was the biggest Phillies fan and listened to the games on the radio and said that the Ballgirls were his favorite part of the game.  We surprised him and the smile on his face was one of the best feelings in the world.

JWOS: Tell me what you've been up since your softball career ended, especially what you're doing now! I know it is a quite-interesting career you've embarked on!
Genevieve Haney: After softball, I focused on my career and volunteered more of my time for a very important non-profit organization that is close to me heart.  The HEADstrong Foundation provides quality of life services to patients and families affected by cancer.  They help real people and work to provide smiles, when smiles are hard to come by.  I really enjoy my time helping others and $0.90 of every dollar raised goes directly to the cause!

I also found myself training in Mixed Martial Arts at MPR Endurance. One day, I decided that I wanted to compete and get in the best shape of my life so I started to train and learn the different techniques in Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Wrestling and MMA.  I am currently a Blue Belt in Jiu-Jitsu and it is by far the best work out I have ever done and it is amazing how much you learn every single day.

JWOS: As a former softball competitor, was it tough to go from being on the field yourself to being a spectator and watching your husband on the field during his own playing days? 
Genevieve Haney: It is very hard to not be able to play again like I used to; I guess that’s what drew me so much to MMA.  The fact that I could still compete in tournaments made it a bit easier!  The best part about watching my husband is that he was an unbelievable athlete and he is an amazing coach.  I live vicariously through him while they play their games and love getting involved in the sports talk.  His players are really lucky to have him as a coach and I have so much faith and confidence that he will go far.

JWOS: Say you were stranded on a deserted island for an undetermined period of time, but you could take three things with you. Boats and phones are off-limits, what would you take?
Genevieve Haney: Well, a fire starter would be one, to cook my food, boil water and provide warmth.  But after that, I would bring my sketch book and paints/pens so I could draw the beautiful scenery that I saw every day. I could then make some sort of shelter with that and it would make for lovely decorations!!

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