Former Mustang Softball Standout Goes for Gold in Tokyo
Sierra Hyland always loved playing softball. But being in the Olympics is a relatively new goal for her — and one that she’s more than ready for.
The former Mustang standout didn’t consider a career in the sport until she was unexpectedly drafted by the Chicago Bandits as the number four pick in the 2017 National Pro Fastpitch Draft. Her boyfriend and grandfather were still outside parking the car when her name was called.
“It made my heart stop,” she said. “That was the first moment I thought, ‘I can do this.’”
Encouraged by her mom and her grandpa, who is from Mexico, Hyland tried out and made the Mexican national softball team. In 2019, she pitched a game against Puerto Rico that helped the team move toward a berth in the Olympics — secured when they beat the Canadian team.
“A lot of people thought Puerto Rico was going, they thought Canada was going to outplay us, but we swept the tournament,” she said. “I think that really shocked a lot of people and that was one of the best feelings, because people didn’t think we were going to be able to do it.”
In fact, it didn’t feel real to Hyland that they made it to the Olympics.
“I’m one of those people who doesn’t really react until it happens, so it didn’t feel real to me at first,” she said. “Now that we’re here and training and the host cities are welcoming us, it’s definitely feeling more real. It’s an amazing experience.”
Just a few months before the Olympics were originally set to begin, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and upended the world’s plans.
Hyland said she hit a slump in the beginning of the pandemic but was pulled out of it by another Cal Poly alum: former football player Nick Leyden, who invited Hyland to train with him.
“Getting to throw a ball somewhere not in my house just opened up so much for me,” she said. “It made me very thankful for everything we had before because that was definitely a challenge, especially playing an outdoor sport and a team sport and not being able to interact with people.”
Looking toward the future, Hyland, who spent two years on the Cal Poly softball coaching staff first as a volunteer and then the pitching coach, said she’s hoping to further her professional career as a player and potentially coach again one day.
“I just want to get as much experience under my belt as I can,” she said. “We have such great players on staff here (on Team Mexico) and I’m learning so much from them.”
The 2020 Olympics will look different from years past due to the pandemic, but Hyland said the team has gotten used to precautions at games over the last year and a half, such as not having spectators.
"It’s definitely going to be different,” Hyland said. “I feel like this is where we really dig into each other and we really invest in each other and hype each other up and do what we can and get as far as we can go — and hopefully that’s to the top of the podium.”
For more information on the games schedule, visit the Tokyo Olympic Softball website.