Kevin Hunt could point to a variety of things he did to help mold his daughter into one of the country's top high school softball players.
Before Kaila Hunt was 18 months old, he would toss her a balloon.
When she was about 6 years old, he tied a ball to a piece of poplar wood and swung the ball into orbit. Kaila would try to hit it each go-round.
There were ground ball drills, weight training at age 9 and playing up an age group during travel ball.
Kaila, the Greenbrier standout and University of Alabama signee, is The Columbia County News-Times' Softball Player of the Year.
Her father knows the blueprint for how she got to this point, but cautions that following it might not achieve the same results.
"Every kid ain't going to be like Kaila. I don't care how much you work with them," he said. "She's got a lot of innate abilities and skills that are just different."
Despite all the tools she had in place, Kaila had to add one for Greenbrier this season.
The Wolfpack lost two key members of their infield to injury early in the season. Florida State signee and Wolfpack second baseman Ashlyn Masters tore up her knee before the season, and sister Lauren Masters hurt her shoulder.
Kaila, once content to quietly go about business, had to start talking. She reminded sophomore second baseman Casey Rowland where to be on double plays and to cover first on a bunt. Junior Savanah Coon had never played third before Lauren Masters was injured. She also became a target for Kaila's coaching in the infield.
"Kaila was kind of the glue that held our infield together," coach Garrett Black said. "Her experience was very valuable to us."
Kaila was named the Class AAAAA Player of the Year after helping lead the Wolfpack to the state finals in Columbus.
Kevin Hunt, with as an objective voice as a father can take, said that in all their travels to play softball, Kaila was among the top five defensively he watched play.
"I've seen kids from all over," he said. "She'd make plays on defense, and you were like, 'Wow, pretty good.' "
Her ability to cover ground initially led Kevin to believe his daughter's future was in basketball. Kaila had a basketball game when she was 5 years old that would light up with each basket. Her father would retrieve the ball and return it, and Kaila would shoot for 20 minutes or more.
The childhood games, drills and eventual weight-lifting were all embraced by Kaila. Often, she would be the one doing the pushing. One night when she was about 10, her father said, Kaila asked to go hit soft tosses into the net in the garage. She did that for almost an hour.
Her love of the competition extends to the basketball court, where she starts for the Wolfpack despite having her college future decided as a softball player.
Years of playing for the Atlanta Vipers travel team on the weekends earned her a spot on the Crimson Tide's roster, but Kaila has remained entrenched in the high school experience.
"In Atlanta, it was kind of like a weekend thing, which was great," she said. "I loved travel ball. But being part of a school ball team is more like being a part of a family."
The Columbia County News-Times' All County Softball Team
P -- Katie Tracy, Sr., Greenbrier
-- Senior was region's top pitcher, first-team all state and posted a 0.62 ERA.
P -- Jenny Shepherd, Sr., Evans
-- 2008 County Player of the Year overcame knee surgery to earn first-team all state and Region 3-AAAA's top pitching honor.
INF -- Brittnie Harrison, Jr., Evans
-- First baseman was first-team Region 3-AAAA and boasted a 0.965 fielding percentage.
INF -- Savanah Coon, Jr., Greenbrier
-- Launched game-winning home runs to beat Evans and Union Grove, the latter to give the Wolfpack their 14th consecutive region title.
INF -- Kaila Hunt, Jr., Greenbrier
-- University of Alabama signee was named the top player in GHSA's highest class.
INF -- Cara Parker, Fr., Lakeside
-- Newcomer was a first-team all-region pick.
C -- Kayla Cates, Jr., Evans
-- Steady junior caught all 37 games and threw out 11 of 14 runners attempting to steal.
OF -- Savanna Gladue, Fr., Evans
-- Gritty lead-off batter hit .300 and stole eight bases.
OF -- Allison Clark, Sr., Lakeside
-- Panthers senior was first-team all region pick.
OF -- Rachel Nimmons, Jr., Greenbrier
-- All-region pick batted .327 with 19 RBI.
UTIL-- Kristen Mills, So., Harlem
-- Sophomore pitcher earned first-team all-region honors and was voted team MVP.
P -- Brooke Sarver, So., Evans
P -- Kayleigh McNair, Sr., Harlem
INF -- Jessica Coleman, Jr., Harlem
INF -- Kristin Hampson, Jr., Evans
INF-- Casey Rowland, So., Greenbrier
INF -- Skye Slagle, Sr., Harlem
C -- Carolina Stanley, Jr., Lakeside and Gabriella Medina, Jr., Grovetown
OF -- Lindsey Sellers, Sr., Greenbrier
OF -- Kia Graham, Jr., Harlem
OF -- Brittany McLamb, Sr., Harlem
UTIL-- Amanda Clark, Jr., Lakeside
Stephanie Rhoden, Greenbrier; Marya Blackledge, Greenbrier; D'layne Deas, Greenbrier; Tori Poss, Harlem; Jessie Weigers, Lakeside; Valerie Lawrence, Evans; Carrie McKenzie, Grovetown
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