Mathis sisters moving up, moving on
When John Fogerty sang these immortal words in his 1985 recording of Centerfield, "Oh, put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today; Put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today; Look at me, I can be centerfield", he did not know at the time that they would be the anthem of the Mathis sisters, Kalah and Haley from Forrest High School.
Over the past six seasons, Forrest head coach Becky Cheatham has not had to worry about who was roaming the middle of the outfield at the Field of Dreams in Chapel Hill.
Two years ago, Kalah Mathis left Forrest for Columbia State Community College (CSCC) after patrolling centerfield for four years for the Lady Rockets and upon leaving, her sister Haley took over the duties.
On Friday, history repeated itself when Haley signed a softball scholarship to play for the Lady Chargers next season, taking over the duties from Kalah in centerfield.
On April 14, the University of Tennessee Martin announced that Kalah had signed a softball scholarship to continue her four-year degree at the school, most likely in centerfield.
"It's pretty exciting, Kalah leaves and Haley goes in to pick up where big sister left off," said Cheatham. "Playing centerfield is just something they do naturally. It is not something we can take any credit for."
"I am very excited about going to Columbia State, I can still be close to home," said Haley Mathis. "I started playing when I was four and always loved it. If I did not play after high school I would have missed it a lot."
Haley said about replacing Kalah at CSCC, "Her shoes are too big to fill. I am not trying to fill her shoes. I will just try to take what she has taught me and do my best."
"Haley can do it anything she wants to do," said Kalah. "She has all the talent in the world and she will be awesome. Haley knows how to work hard for what she wants."
CSCC head coach Johnny Littrell was all smiles at the signing saying, "We must be doing something right to get the two sisters. We see the same things in Haley that we saw in Kalah. Not just their athleticism, but their character. It has been a pleasure having Kalah; she is a leader and is so easy to coach. We are confident that Haley will come in and fill those shoes."
Littrell added, "In the field, Haley's quickness to the ball is remarkable. She reacts so well to the ball off the bat. On the hitting end is her speed and how she reacts to the pitchers. She is a confident hitter and that means a lot."
Kalah Mathis has set the bar high, leading the entire Tennessee Junior and Community College Athletic Association (TJCCAA) in batting average last season and finishing 5th in the entire National Junior College Athletic Association.
Kalah also earned All-American academic honors and is a candidate for All-American honors on the field and in the classroom again this season.
Mathis' efforts also earned her selections to the TJCCAA All-Conference First Team and TJCCAA All-Tournament Team, while also finishing runner up in the conference MVP voting.
She currently ranks number four in the TJCCAA batting this season, sporting a .463 average.
At Forrest, both Mathis sisters have been selected to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association's All-State squads, the Middle Tennessee Coaches Association's All-State team, the All-Region squads, and All-District teams.
There is one accolade that Haley has that her sister does not, a TSSAA State softball Title.
"I was ecstatic when they won it last year," said Kalah. "It was something we all worked for and got close to winning. I felt like I was a part of that last year."
Kalah added, "I think they can do it again, they have been there before. When it comes down to all the hard games, I think they will pull through."
Haley said, "We are still going for what we want, we are not satisfied yet. We know how it is and we will not let anyone or anything get in our way."
Haley ranks 5th in the Forrest Class of 2009 with a 3.96 GPA, but is undecided on her major, saying, "I am not sure what I want to do yet, but I do know I want to do something to help other people."