Maddi Wyllie and Haley Chaboya have been working on the same dream since before they were teenagers. That dream always centered around softball.
For most of their softball careers, Wyllie and Chaboya have been teammates. Whether it was in the youth leagues, on a travel team, or in high school, the duo of Wyllie and Chaboya were always close to one another.
After graduating from Calaveras High School in the spring of 2018, the longtime teammates went their separate ways. Even though they didn’t have the same school name across their jersey, they continued their softball lives.
With three years having passed since Wyllie and Chaboya shared a dugout together, the former teammates and current friends were reunited on the softball diamond; the same place their friendship blossomed many years ago. However, this time, they represented their own universities.
Wyllie is in her third year of playing softball for Corban University, located in Salem, Ore. As for Chaboya, she is playing her second season at William Jessup University, located in Rocklin. Chaboya previously played at George Fox University, in Newburg, Ore.
After Wyllie’s Corban University beat Chaboya’s William Jessup University, the two former teammates reunited as if no time had passed.
“She’s like a softball sister,” Wyllie said. “We have been on so many teams together and have been in so many different situations with each other and have gone on so many trips together. That was all so much fun. She’s like a sister and I miss playing with her, so it was really good to see her today.”
Enjoying the moment
Wyllie always took herself very seriously on the softball field. From her days as a high schooler trying to prove she was a division I player, to making it to that level and trying to prove she belongs, she always put pressure on herself to perform.
While she still has that competitive attitude, the impact that COVID-19 has had made her rethink her outlook on the game she loves.
“I’m a lot more focused and I’m playing every game like it could be my last game, because you never know when it can all be taken away,” Wyllie said. “I’m more relaxed and I’m just here to have fun and remember why we play.”
When Corban took on William Jessup on Feb. 8 in Lincoln, Wyllie’s name was not in the starting lineup. Nevertheless, the junior stood at the front of the dugout and was perhaps the most vocal player wearing the Corban yellow and blue. She greeted teammates coming off the field and offered encouragement as much as she could.
“Our No. 1 philosophy is energy,” Corban head coach Rachel Martin said. “Energy is a choice we can always bring, and Wyllie chooses to do that. She uses that in her voice and attitude. She has her teammates’ (backs) and they know it, based on her presence either in the dugout, field or in the box.”
Wyllie eventually got into the game and took her place in right field. Although the season is still young, Wyllie is on track to have a memorable year. She’s hitting .357 with three doubles. From her outfield position, she has two defensive assists.
Martin feels the biggest difference between Wyllie’s play her first two seasons and this year all has to do with her confidence.
“I’ve seen drastic improvements in her confidence and her belief in her ability in the box,” Martin said. “She can take the ball deep and she’s a phenomenal outfielder. It’s been huge seeing that growth over the past three years.”
Regardless of whether she was in the box, out in the field or in the dugout, Chaboya made sure to keep an eye on her former teammate.
“It’s really exciting,” Chaboya said. “I haven’t seen her in three years. Being able to play against her hypes me up a lot more. It’s really tough not to root for her, because I always want her to do well. She did a good job today and I’m very proud of her. I miss playing with her. Seeing her reminds me of high school and that was one of the best times for me.”
After having her sophomore season cut short because of COVID-19, the early-season trip to Northern California had been circled on her calendar for a while. Not only did Wyllie get to go on a four-day road trip with her teammates, but she got to play against her former Calaveras teammate and see friends, family and old coaches. All of this was done the day before her 21st birthday.
“When we were leaving for this road trip, I went up to my coach and said, ‘You know that feeling you get on Christmas Eve? That is what this feels like,’” Wyllie said. “I couldn’t sleep the night before. I was just so excited to travel. Even though it was eight hours, for me, it was Christmas morning.”
Even though she’s required to wear a mask while she’s on the field or in the dugout, there’s no question that there’s a smile on her face. After losing a year of playing, Wyllie isn’t taking any moment for granted.
“All I wanted to do was play softball,” Wyllie said. “It’s not work at all. We put in so much work together as a team over the extended summer, so it’s not work anymore. This is the fun part. This is the reward.”
A silent leader
Throughout her softball career, Chaboya has never been a vocal player. She’s typically not the one to start chants or deliver a rousing speech. She lets her play do the talking for her. That’s something that William Jessup head coach Brianna Campbell noticed early on about her first baseman.
“Haley is definitely quiet, but she brings a presence to the team that nobody else brings,” Campbell said. “She’s a silent leader and an impact player when we bring her into the game.”
Chaboya played her freshman year at George Fox University in 2019 and transferred to William Jessup University for the 2020 season, which was of course cut short. Even with the looming threat of COVID-19 playing a factor in the 2021 season, Chaboya didn’t let that take away her focus and determination.
“Softball has always been a good escape,” Chaboya said. “The only thing that I think sucks is (wearing) these masks all the time. But being mentally focused isn’t something that I really struggle with. I tried not to think negatively. I just worked my butt off and hoped that we would play.”
There are many different ways a coach can tell if a player is all-in to their program. Campbell saw it in the way Chaboya transformed her body from the summer to spring.
“She put in the time and effort on her own,” Campbell said. “She transformed her body, leaned out and came back a new player.”
Chaboya is making the most of her playing time and, like Wyllie, is happy to once again be back on the diamond she loves.
“I always have fun,” Chaboya said. “Softball has always been the best thing for me.”