Granada Hills- Her plate may be full but nothing stands in the way of Granada Hills pitcher Ally Heredia. She steps into the circle and stares into her catcher against San Fernando. Her face doesn’t give away any emotion. A slow inhale and exhale that stays at a slow and consistent pace whether she’s in the first inning or in the sixth.
Heredia is never one to get rattled in any environment. She handles herself on the softball field and then after her game works as a waiter at an Italian restaurant in Mission Hills called Buon Gusto. She has already mastered the art of adulting by keeping firm focus on school, softball and her job.
“Since I’m athletic everyone has always complimented me on what a hard worker I am,” Heredia said. “I just work hard in school and I come to work and I make it easy. I know some people who hate it but with me it’s just about having mind over body even when I get exhausted. You just got to keep going no matter what.”
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way for Heredia. At the beginning of the season she was slated to be one her team’s top players………….on junior varsity. But when tryouts began in fall, coaches began to notice there was something different about her.
“It’s come down to Ally’s hard work,” Granada Hills coach Ivan Garcia said. “During the tryouts she threw 20 hard balls in a row and we weren’t sure what we were going to do with it. But we knew we could count on her. The more we could go, the more pressure we put on her, the better she played in the situation.”
Heredia’s success came as a surprise to many but not Granada Hills who entered the CIF LA City Section Open Division playoffs as the No. 8 seed. Her team decimated No. 1 seed San Fernando and then rallied from a three run deficit to earn a dramatic win over Kennedy and advanced to the city final against El Camino Real.
“I think she really had to dig deep and pull out that leader personality that she has,” junior infielder Rachel Jardim said. “Now that she is our number one and has set the example by leading the freshman on our team.
All of these accomplishments have come despite not having played travel softball in two seasons. It’s because Heredia helps pitch in for her family financially and her older sister Annaliese who receives treatment for mental illness. While former SoCal Choppers teammate Ava Justman and others fly to tournaments around the country in the summer, Heredia is working full-time shifts at Buon Gusto.
“I stopped playing because there was a tournament in Colorado and my family didn’t have the funds to pay for it, so I quit,” Heredia said. “Travel is really expensive and I don’t think I’ll be going back because I’m 17 years old. I suppose I could go and play for another travel team but that means I’d have to rely on someone to take me everywhere.”
The secret to her success have come from working with Garcia and pitching coach/ hockey trainer Rob Schweyer. Schweyer has been in fastpitch for over 25 years and currently plays with the J&B Ballers. He’s had success in mentoring players like Justman who is committed to the University of Wisconsin.
“Ally is truly one of a kind,” Schweyer said. “I have over 90 clients who I work with in fastpitch softball and hockey and Ally has the strongest will of any athlete I coach. There are two kinds of athletes. Those that succumb to pressure and those that rise above it. She succeeds of her desire. She comes to me and she always wants to find a way to become better. She’s very studious.”
Heredia’s lessons, when she can afford them are paid by her uncle Mike Boyden. In high school, Boyden dreamed of playing college baseball but was never given financial support from his family. It was Uncle Mike that introduced Heredia into the world of softball.
“He’s just always been there for me,” Heredia said. “He didn’t have the opportunities because no one supported him growing up and so as his niece he wanted to help me in the best way possible.”
As a child Heredia would watch on the College Softball World Series on ESPN as a child. She became enamored with the idea of someday going to a big school and play in front of a large crowd. But her inability to play club softball during the summer has dampened those hopes.
“It’s been a dream of mine to play college softball since I was little,” Heredia said. “But I started merging away from that just because of me having to work and not being able to play club. I’m always being told that college scouts only come to travel ball tournaments and no one is ever going to see me play and I don’t spend money just to get seen.”
The future remains bright for Heredia and who knows? That opportunity may come for the junior. One of her intangibles is her confidence. No matter what happens, she will continue to compete. Even after giving up two home runs in the CIF LA City Section final against future Arizona State player Jordyn Vanhook, Heredia continued to compete.
“It doesn’t matter what happens to me out there,” Heredia said. “I’m going to continue to work through any situation and honestly with all the hardship I’ve been through, there’s nothing that can ever really get me down. I get to play softball and when I’m out here, I’m in my element.”
Her work ethic, approach and attitude is what ultimately makes Heredia one of the leaders of her team. Now she’s hoping a coach will catch onto these qualities and fulfill her dreams of playing in college.
Written by Ethan Hanson