Ah, the lazy days of summer. Students everywhere have been taking that long break from school and kicking their feet up to relax and unwind.
Unless your last name is Goolsby that is.
One month after her brother Jeremey tore up the baseball diamond to land him the honor of June Bryan County Athlete of the Month, sister Melanie has successfully done the same in softball to make the summer of 2007 one that the Goolsby family will not soon forget.
The month of July saw Melanie put the word "travel" into travel softball. As part of two travel teams, Southeast Georgia-based Georgia Heat Elite and the Jacksonville Streamline 16U teams, she played in four major tournaments. When it was all said and done, she played a key role in two World Series championship victories and placed within the top five of the other two competitions. In doing so, she is deemed Bryan County Co-Athlete of the Month for the month of July.
In chronological order, here are some highlights of Melanie’s activities in the month of July:
- Orlando: fourth place in the USSSA Florida state tournament with the Jacksonville Streamline team.
- Myrtle Beach: championship title win in the ISA World Series with the Georgia Heat Elite.
- Savannah: championship title win in the WFC World Series with the Georgia Heat Elite.
- Kansas City: third place in the USSSA World Series with the Jacksonville Streamline. Named All-World player by tournament judges for her individual performance.
All of this came very close to never happening. In the beginning of June, during a Georgia Heat game, Melanie suffered a torn quad knee injury. The remainder of that month consisted of physical therapy three times a week. The state competition in Orlando at the beginning of July marked her return.
Melanie is no stranger to summer softball. Last summer, she also won two World Series titles: the ISA title with Georgia Heat and the USSSA title with the Streamline. She followed up by making a name for herself on the Wildcat varsity team this past season.Her history in the sport started when she was very young. She began T-ball at the age of five. At age ten, she caught the eye of a travel ball coach and has played every summer since.
"He saw some natural talent in her," said her father, Doug Goolsby, of her first travel coach. "She was making contact with the ball when a lot of girls didn’t, and she was fast. Those traits continue today. Her speed is probably 100 points in her batting average. If a ground ball goes to short stop, she beats it out whereas the average girl gets thrown out."
"I traveled all over the place with the 10 and under team, and I fell in love with it," said Melanie. "People come up to me and say ‘wow, you gave up your whole summer to play ball’ and I tell them that I wouldn’t be any other place. I feel more at home on the ball field than I do at home."
In addition to her speed, Melanie has been touted for her versatility. Her freshman year at RHHS, she was thrown into the catcher position. More recently, she was thrown onto third base for the WFC World Series in Savannah. She adapted and excelled very quickly at both. She said she is now confident she could pick up any position if called upon to do so.
"She is the glue on this team," said Georgia Heat head coach Bubba Hilton, who has coached Melanie for four years. "The girls look up to her on and off the field. She’s always smiling and having a great time. She’s definitely doing what she loves to do.
"Melanie is a leader," Hilton continued. "She’s the one kid on our team that keeps everybody up and motivated. I have to tell her to slow down at some of the practices because she always gives 110 percent. There’s never one moment on that field that you see her walking or loafing around. If you had a team full of players like her, you’d never have a complaint in the world."
Hilton said her speed and instinct has led to countless stolen bases. He also said she has as much power at bat as she does speed. "She’s batting over .380 for the whole year. For the last few tournaments, she hit over .500. She got a big hit every time up."
In addition to running the family business, the local family sports pub Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, parents Doug and Georgia have taken turns escorting Melanie around the country to compete in travel ball tournaments.
"We do it because that’s what she wants to do and that’s her love," said her mother, Georgia Goolsby. "It’d take just one time for her to say ‘I don’t want to go to practice’ and we’d be done. We see her following this to the college level and we want to encourage that. I think one of things that’ll be in her favor when the college coaches start looking at her is her attitude off the field. For example, if she does happen to strike out, she walks off the field and immediately cheers on her teammates. She’s very well-rounded for her age."
With a most recent GPA of 3.7 to add to her sporting achievements, an athletic scholarship seems like a reachable goal for Melanie. She said she wants to go to a Division I school and is looking at GSU where she hopes to attend in order to play ball and follow her dream of becoming a physical therapist.