The only thing that Oakdale High sophomores Maddi and Kindra Hackbarth have in common is their voracious passion for the sport of softball.
Until the pair presents valid birth certificates, the Oakdale Leader refuses to accept their acclaimed status as fraternal twins.
Maddi is deliberate and methodical. She plans for her future with detailed checklists and already knows what she will study in college. When she does depart Oakdale High for continued education, a close proximity to her parents will be serious preference. On the field, she’s quiet and determined.
Kindra is spontaneous and unpredictable. She’s been an aspiring veterinarian and kindergarten teacher, and now shows interest in a career as a crime scene investigator. Kindra doesn’t mind the bustle of a large college campus and has no problems enrolling in a university on the other side of the country. She’s a loud and boisterous presence on the softball field.
“They are kind of night and day,” father, Paul Hackbarth said. “They have such great personalities, but they are so completely different.”
Despite their variances, the OHS sisters are resolute in their goal to play college softball at the same university. It’s an interesting task that requires a unique blend of compromise on their part, combined with a serious commitment to the family by a high-level program.
For the Hackbarths, the ultimate prize is a free education at a prestigious university and an opportunity to excel athletically in the NCAA. For the college of their choice, the reward could change the course of program history.
Coming from an Oakdale program that boasts more college athletes than nearly all other OHS sports combined, Kindra and Maddi represent two of the most prolific young players in school history.
Both started and played vital roles on the varsity program as 2012-13 freshmen, a big reason Oakdale rallied to a 15-1 finish for the regular season. The two combined for four hits in seven at bats, with a triple, double, RBI, walk and run during Oakdale’s season-ending loss to Cosumnes Oaks in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Each landed six multiple-hit games during the last nine contests on the Valley Oak League schedule.
Kindra, who batted leadoff and nabbed first-team All-Valley Oak League recognition, was arguably the best player on the Oakdale roster at just 15 years of age. She was at her best when Oakdale was pitted against its toughest opponents.
She’s showcased rapid development over the past year, a drastic change-of-pace for a player who had to fight to emerge from her sister’s shadow.
“Kindra has been a little bit of a late bloomer,” dad Paul said. “In previous years, she was always more successful in the second year of an age division, while Madison excelled so early.
“It’s been amazing to watch Kindra become her own person, and not be just Madison’s sister.”
Madison also had a stellar year, but didn’t nab All-League recognition amidst an infield that included a pair of University of Virginia-bound stars in Kimball’s Ariana Hawkins and Iyana Hughes of Sierra.
Prep accolades only gain a limited amount of traction. In the softball world, the rise and fall of college recruits is determined by a vigorous pace of travel softball tournaments, camps and campus visits.
It’s a practice the Hackbarths are now experts in, having scoured the country for potential host schools and attacked major showcase tournaments with glee.
The saga of their travels belongs in a Jules Verne novel.
Since the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, the girls have attended tournaments in Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Colorado, Oklahoma; and California locales ranging from Huntington Beach to Los Angeles, Riverside to Stockton. They have made unofficial visits at Notre Dame, Northwestern, Fresno State, Cal, Washington, and Oklahoma.
And the journey is far from over. In an order that varies for both sisters, the pair has narrowed their college selections to Notre Dame, Cal and Fresno State. All three universities have shown serious interest in the youngsters, with Notre Dame and Fresno State requesting their presence at a football game this fall.
“Coming to a football game at Notre Dame will be an entirely different experience than when the girls visited campus this fall,” Notre Dame assistant softball coach Lizzy Lemire said in an email to the Hackbarths’s travel softball coach, Pete Aguayo. “Football weekends are a very great quality that encompasses Notre Dame – tradition, excellence, spirit, family, faith.
“You really can feel it in the air and it is a perfect experience to test whether or not this place is for you. I think the girls will love it.”
Since the Hackbarths are only incoming sophomores, their communication with college coaches is limited to unofficial visits, second-hand information relayed from travel coaches and phone calls they make each week.
“If a college coach wants to talk to a player, they get ahold of their travel coach and set up the phone call,” Kindra said. “If they are really interested, they will ask you to call them weekly.
“That is the fun part. You get to know them and they get to know you.”
Kindra admitted she was nervous for her first call, but now looks forwards to the weekly interactions over the phone. Her jovial personality is impossible to miss in these moments.
Maddi treats the calls with a business-like approach, comparing the exchanges between coaches with her own documented list of needs.
It’s a different way of handling things, but they do it together.