There have always been two different types of athletes: the hard working and the naturally talented. Hesperia High School has been blessed with both.
 
Scorpion Varsity Softball players Kelsey Byrd and Raeven Ball have taken two different paths in their softball careers; however, they have both recently taken one of the biggest steps toward their dreams. On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., both girls signed their college letters of intent. Byrd will be attending Division One, George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia, while Ball decided to stay in Southern California and signed to NAIA California State San Marcos.
 
Byrd, who has been playing softball since she was eight-years-old, has had an interesting journey leading up to becoming a potential starter at George Mason. Starting out in Little League, Kelsey was not looked at as being a particularly "gifted" player but always showed heart. That show of heart has gotten her where she is today.
 
"Well, I coached Kelsey [for] the first time when she was nine years old in all stars. She was like a newborn foal with long legs and didn't really have control of herself yet, but she always had drive ... listening to her [coaches] she's really came a long way from [then]. She's a different animal when you look at her now," said varsity head coach Pat Brooksher.
 
For Ball it was a different story. Although there was a lot of hard work involved, she already had the natural talent she needed. Playing since she was 10 and being involved in many travel ball tournaments, including a showcase tournament in Colorado, Ball has enhanced her natural out fielding abilities into solid college level play.
 
"The first time I went to practice she was just making catches and making them look easy. I mentioned to [former varsity coach] Coach Stewart, who's the kid out there? And he said, 'She's a new freshman,' and I said, 'Wow, that is pretty nice.' [She has been] a four-year center fielder since the day I saw her," said Brooksher.
 
A competitive nature and a stubborn will can be a flaw for most people; however, in softball, that is what Byrd thrived off of in every pitch, of every game. Her way of leading has always been to encourage her teammates with words and "talking it up" in the dugout.
 
"Kelsey is the ultimate competitor. She hates to lose. I think if she played her sister at Candyland and if she lost she would probably throw the board," said Brooksher.
 
Ball has been a different kind of leader. With a quiet, lead by example attitude, she has demanded respect from each one of her teammates.
 
"Rae is one of those leaders by example. She is not vocal, she is not going to scream at people. She is not even so much as a rah-rah person. She just leads by example," said Brooksher.

As both players became better and better on the field in ability and leadership, they began to contact colleges. Byrd did not have a tough time choosing what school she would attend after her official visit to George Mason. While there, she spent two days enjoying the school and even got sit with her future teammates in the dugout during a double-header. Shortly after, Byrd made the choice to attend what had now become the school of her dreams. Despite George Mason being very far from home Byrd talks as if it was closer than ever.
 
"If I went [drove] up North it would be the same [amount of time] as it would be flying so it's not too bad," said Byrd.
 
In Ball's case, her mother wanted her to get out of California; however Raeven wanted to stay close to home. They would eventually come to an agreement after the head coach, Dave Williams, of Point Loma, a school she was considering, made the move to San Marcos and called. Ball would eventually make her official visit was able to practice with the team.
 
"I was very, very nervous. I did absolutely all I could. I dove for every ball and it was a good experience," said Ball. "[The other girls] were very, very friendly and they kind of took away from the nervousness a little bit."
 
With schools in mind and visits having been made, finances were one of the last obstacles to face. In both cases, the schools are picking up a majority of the costs. Byrd has received a full-ride scholarship to GMU, while UCSM will be covering all but room and board for Ball.

It has been a long journey for both girls to get to this point. Their hard work and determination have gotten them to where they are today and their families are very proud.
 
"I feel most definitely proud, and excited.  All the training I put her through has finally paid off ... in her favor.  I can't put it into words how proud I am," said Clifford Ball.