One town’s Lady Cat is soon to be another state’s Lady Buff.
Richmond Hill High School will be losing a great athlete come graduation day, but Milligan College, Tenn., is gaining one. Senior softball player Heather Vaccaro will continue to play next year, as a Lady Buffalo on the college level, after she signed the contract with the college’s head softball coach on Monday, Dec. 10.
"We are very happy that she has chosen to come to Milligan to further her career and her academic and athletic goals," said Milligan Head Softball Coach Wes Holly. "She’s a great kid and student athlete; she comes from a great family. We’re really, really excited that she’s going to be a part of our softball program."
Vaccaro said going to Milligan has been her dream for a while.
"I’m excited but nervous," she said. "It was my first choice; I’ve wanted to go to Milligan for a long time. This is even more of an incentive."
But it wasn’t too long ago that Vaccaro feared her dream had no chance.
During the last game of the 2007 RHHS softball season, against the Lady Rebels of Hephzibah in October, she broke her leg while sliding into third base in the sixth inning of the game.
"She was really disappointed at the end of the season," Vaccaro’s mother Linda said. "All the tournaments were coming up, which is usually when scouts look for new prospects. She didn’t think she was going to get a scholarship."
While the injury ended her Richmond Hill playing career, it didn’t put a damper on starting a new one at Milligan.
Vaccaro went to Milligan last year with RHHS student Sarah Baker, who signed with the swim team and was at the school meeting her new coach. Vaccaro said after she met the swim coach with Baker, word eventually got around to the softball coaches that she was interested. Holly sent word back that if Vaccaro was interested, she should give him a call.
"The day that happened, Heather was in surgery," Linda Vaccaro said.
Once the cast was off, Vaccaro called Holly and the rest is history.
Vaccaro signed the contract to play, accepting a $30,000 athletic scholarship that goes along with it. She will be receiving an additional academic scholarship, which the college offered to her based on her grades.
"We’re very proud of her and we’ve got four more years of support coming her way," Vaccaro’s father Gerry said.
"She’s got her eyes open," Linda Vaccaro added. "Their softball program is growing and he’s got three seniors leaving. Heather’s always been active in sports and had a natural talent; hopefully Coach Holly will take her to the next level."
That’s just what Holly plans to do.
"We are looking for her to contribute as soon as she comes in," he said. "She’s coming to play and get an education. We thank all of you who have helped prepare her for this point and hopefully today will be one of the days that is rewarding for all her hard work."
Vaccaro thinks she will major in business or administration, with a possible minor in missions, since she has been active with work in areas such as Haiti and New Orleans.
While Vaccaro won’t hit the playing field until the fall of 2008, Milligan College has something big in store this spring – which Vaccaro and some of her former Lady Cat teammates plan to attend.
Milligan will be welcoming the USA Softball Women’s National Team on April 13, to play Milligan’s Lady Buffs in a "tune-up" game for the Beijing Olympic Games. It is the first-ever National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school to host an Olympic team, Holly said.