From softball to children in foster care, Annie Willis found two new teams to join this year
Annie, who grew up in Huntsville and played softball at Westminster Christian Academy, was a pitcher for the Mississippi State University Bulldogs softball team and helped the team make its first Super Regional in her last season, with a win over number 2 ranked Florida State. Over her career with the Bulldogs, she racked up a 35-19 record and a 2.35 ERA.
After finishing at Mississippi State earlier this year, she got the opportunity to play professionally over the summer for the Smash It Sports Vipers in Women’s Pro Fastpitch. She recorded three wins and one loss during the season and a 2.06 ERA.
But now that she’s off the mound for the season, she’s settling into her new job.
Annie graduated from Mississippi State in August of 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Science with a focus in Youth Development. She’s working on her Masters in the same area and expects to finish this December.
Her desire to work with children started at a young age. In addition to three biological siblings, Annie has a younger brother who was adopted from China when she was 6. She has two cousins who also were adopted.
“I’ve always grown up thinking I either wanted to work in the foster care system or in the adoption field,” she said.
Annie interned at Kids to Love in 2021 and said it solidified the fact that she wanted to work in foster care.
“I think every kid deserves a family,” Annie said. “And if that means a foster family, if that means a biological family, if that means an adoptive family, I just feel like every kid deserves that chance at that kind of forever love, and I wanted to be part of an organization that really is geared toward doing that.”
She was set to come to work as a case manager when she got the offer to play professionally. She talked with Kids to Love Founder and CEO Lee Marshall, who told her to chase her dream.
“I had already planned to come back here and start work in the summer, and so I texted Lee and said ‘Look, this opportunity presented itself,’ and she was like ‘Go for it. We’ll get you to work when you come back.’”
Being able to play professional softball was a dream come true for Annie.
“I’ve dreamt of it since it was a little girl, but never actually thought I could do it or it was an option, and it presented itself and I did it,” she said. “And now I’m happy to be here working.”
And Annie plans to continue playing pro softball. She says the game she loves has given her valuable lessons that she’s ready to take into her new career.
“It’s OK to fail, because softball is a game of failures,” she said. “But you can learn from every mistake or failure you have, and you get better from it. But also it has taught me to work hard and give everything I’ve got for any task that I have, and it’s just taught me to be thankful for every opportunity that I’ve been given.”