JIM PETERS: Run to softball state finals even sweeter for the Hodges

2013-06-06T17:00:00Z 2013-06-07T01:18:07Z JIM PETERS: Run to softball state finals even sweeter for the HodgesJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
June 06, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

When Haley Hodges popped her first career home run in her first varsity game as a Portage freshman, her dad Jay was on a golf course.

"I got all the info from my wife (Lynda) via text message," Hodges said. "Nobody expected her to be a starter (that year), at least not at home."

Jay wasn't golfing. He was coaching, working as an assistant with the Indians boys golf team, but that didn't make it any easier to be away.

On days he was able to make games, then-Indians coach Gil Arzola encouraged him to remedy the absence issue by joining his staff. The following season, he did, returning to the sport he'd helped Haley with since she was a 6-year old in Portage Junior Miss.

"He taught me how to play softball, all that I knew about it," Haley said. "He was always one of the parents that was there helping, supporting me. We've had that relationship since I was very little."

Fortunately, when Jay, a 26-year teacher at Portage who also coached 15 years of basketball and nearly two decades of football, joined the softball staff, Haley had already established herself. Still, they had to deal with the perception of preferential treatment for a coach's kid that often manifests itself in the bleachers at games.

"You always worry about how others are going to view the situation," Jay said. "You try everything in your power so it doesn't seem like favoritism. Sometimes, that results in you being tougher on your own."

Haley's quick to remind him of that.

"I'd tell him there were times he'd yell at me when he didn't yell at the other girls, but it was never really a big issue," she said. "It's always been that way. I had higher expectations on me when I was younger."

Jay starred in football, basketball and baseball at Lake Station. He played on Purdue Calumet's first NAIA-sanctioned basketball team. What Haley knew of her dad's athletic prowess didn't come from him. There was never an issue of her living up to his standard of success. She wanted it because she wanted it.

"I'm very blessed," Jay said. "She's a softball gym rat, a field rat. She's very intelligent. She gets that from her mother. She's a student of the game. She's very competitive. She's not afraid. She wants to be pushed, which makes it so much easier for me. She reminds me a lot of me. She's a typical coach's son, except she's a coach's daughter."

Haley, in turn, proudly calls herself "my father's daughter."

"My personality's like my dad's," she said. "We're both very competitive. We're both stubborn. There are always tough times when we don't see eye to eye, but we find a way to work it out. It's been really special to share what we've done with him."

The Hodges will share the Portage name one last time in Saturday's Class 4A state championship.

"It's an incredible group of girls," Jay said. "Most of them are Haley's best friends. It's like I have a bunch of daughters."

Haley will play at Southern Indiana next season. Jay wants to watch her, but she respects him so much that she wants him to stick around at Portage.

"He adds a great dynamic to the team," she said. "He has a pretty even temper. He's patient. He brings the teacher aspect to the field. He's a great coach."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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