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haylie mccleney alabama
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

University of Alabama softball phenom Haylie McCleney is known for getting the job done on the world’s biggest stages. The former Crimson Tide softball player did more than represent Team USA as they played for a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. She was a spark plug.

Before she was destroying pitches at the Olympic Games in Japan, she was tearing up the SEC in Tuscaloosa. And if you ask me, she’s the best softball player that’s ever stepped on the field at Rhoads Stadium.

Who is Haylie McCleney?

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Haylie McCleney was born and raised in Morris, Alabama, to parents John and Cindy McCleney. Her father played college baseball at Samford University. She has two brothers named Walker and Garrison.

McCleney attended Mortimer Jordan High School in Kimberly, Alabama, where she won three state championships and was named first-team All-State in each of those seasons. She was named Birmingham News Female Athlete of the Year twice during her high school career.

McCleney is engaged to be married after the Summer Olympics to fiancée Kylee Hanson. Hanson was a star pitcher at Florida State University. The pair met when they were 17 and became close friends before the relationship developed further.

Haylie McCleney: Alabama’s Best Softball Player Ever

McCleney isn’t just the best Alabama softball player of all time. She’s one of the greatest college softball players ever.

I don’t even know where to start in describing the four-time All-American’s career. She holds Alabama’s career record for batting average (.447), on-base percentage (.569) and triples (16), while ranking second in runs scored (279) and fourth in hits (313). Oh, and she also hit 27 home runs and stole 118 bases.

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There wasn’t a better table-setter to wear the Crimson Tide jersey.

As a freshman, McCleney was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team and the All-SEC Defensive Team. Her sophomore season saw her finish as a Top-10 finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and also a First-Team Academic All-American and a NFCA First-Team All-American.

She found more success her junior year for the Alabama Crimson Tide. She won the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. The outfield sensation was named to the First-Team All-SEC team, too.

As a senior, she became a three-time First-Team All-American (that’s very rare) and also won the Senior CLASS Award. However, in her final Women’s College World Series, McCleney could not lead the Tide past the Oklahoma Sooners softball team. They suffered a first-round defeat.

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McCleney is just the sixth four-time All-American in program history. The others? Kelly Kretschman, Brittany Rogers, Kelsi Dunne, Jackie McClain and Jackie Traina.

Those girls were great, and so is Bailey Hemphill, but did they ever win a silver medal at the Olympics?

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After her legendary Alabama career, McCleney became a key player for USA Softball.

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She became a gold medalist after helping lead Team USA to a victory in the Pan American Games in 2017 and again in 2019. Furthermore, she’s a two-time World Cup of Softball silver medalist. McCleney is also a two-time gold medalist at the World Championships and a two-time silver medalist.

Unfortunately, McCleney and the United States team lost to Japan in the gold medal game at the coronavirus pandemic-delayed 2020 Summer Olympics. McCleney was a vital member of the U.S. Olympic Team’s run and had to settle for a silver medal.

Silver ain’t bad, but Haylie McCleney’s career is worthy of gold. Just ask Alabama fans.

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Karl Rasmussen is a sports writer living in Brooklyn, NY. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon and is an avid fan of the Oregon Ducks, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Yankees and New York Jets.
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