Janiva Willis' hometown in Canada honored the former Winthrop standout recently by naming the Irishtown community softball fields in her honor.
"It's still dawning on me," the 24-year-old Willis told the Times and Transcript after the ceremony. "This is an amazing feeling to come back here and see the appreciation. I'm speechless, kind of. I know people support me, but to see it, to see people put something like that together, is amazing."
Willis, who was a two-time member of the Canadian Women's Senior National team, was a four-year starter for the Lady Eagles and holds virtually every offensive record -- games played, at-bats, total runs, hits, doubles, home runs and walks.
"It couldn't have happened to a greater kid," Winthrop coach Mark Cooke said. "As good of a player as she was, she was a better person. It's quite an honor to have something named after you."
Willis is living in Rock Hill and working on her master's degree in social work.
She came up short in her bid to make the Canadian Olympic team and doesn't know if she'll play professionally in the United States or overseas after graduating in May.
"Will I come back to softball? I might," Willis said. "You never know what opportunities will come about."
• DIAMOND DUST: Cooke, his staff and players are counting the hours to Saturday, when softball practice begins.
"I can't wait," said Cooke, who guided his Lady Eagles to a 50-18 record, the Big South Conference title and the NCAA tournament last season. "It can't get here soon enough.
"Nobody wanted to see last year end."
The Lady Eagles won't have many practices before heading off to Palm Springs, Calif., for the Cathedral City Kick-Off, which runs Feb. 8-10.
Winthrop returns the majority of the lineup, including the entire pitching staff of Megan Evans (25-7, 2.24 ERA), Carri Wooldridge (17-6, 3.04) and Izzy Trottier (8-5, 2.66).
• DIAMOND DUST II: The baseball team will be hosting an alumni weekend at The Winthrop Ballpark Feb. 16-17.
Festivities start with a golf tournament and cookout.
Two games will be played on Feb. 17. Game 1 will match alumni whose final year of play ends with an odd number against those who last played in an even-numbered year.
That game will be followed by an intrasquad game. Admission is free.
• HALL OF FAME: Winthrop will honor the latest class to be inducted into the athletic hall of fame on Feb. 8 at McBryde Hall.
Tickets are $25. Festivities begin with a 6:30 p.m. reception, followed by supper and the induction ceremonies.
This year's inductees include former coach and administrator Maeberta Bobb, former soccer player and two-sport coach Frankie Griffin, former golfer and current men's golf coach Kevin Pendley, former basketball standout Rick Riese, who played on the first Winthrop's men's team, and former pitcher David Steffler.
For more information or to RSVP, contact Sharen DuBard at (803) 323-2129, ext. 6218, or firstname.lastname@example.org.