There’s never been a Concordia softball player quite like Hhana Haro. For one, she spells her first name with two H’s. Her birth mother believed that if the Aarons of the world can get away with two A’s, then she had no need to apologize for adding an extra H. That’s not all that’s unique about the Bulldog version of Triple H.
She brought with her more than just an abundance of H’s all the way from her hometown of Garden Grove, Calif. Haro happens to own impressively quick wrists that helped her hit the ball where they ain’t at a rate that few hitters at any level of collegiate softball could match in 2018.
Said head coach Todd LaVelle, “When we played our first ballgame up in Sioux City (during the fall season) you could just tell. I don’t remember the statistics, but you could tell she was going to be a special hitter. She was recognizing the changeup and hitting it to all fields. The more she played and the more we saw her in the hitting center we knew she was going to be pretty special.”
So special is Haro that she wasted no time wearing out opposing pitchers. As just a freshman, Haro hit .494 and broke program single-season records for hits and doubles. To top it off, the conference named the Pacifica High School product the GPAC Player of the Year. It really isn’t supposed to be that easy, but it was for this rookie from SoCal.
Not even the unseasonably chilly spring weather or a bout of homesickness was able to derail Haro, who seems to have a knack for making humorous comments without even trying. Haro described her first experience in Nebraska by saying, “I was literally surrounded by corn.” She also says that “snow is overrated.” So how did she deal with it? “I’ll just stay inside,” she quipped.
Everything felt so different for an enthusiastic beach goer now making her family and friends proud nearly 1,500 miles – and a four-and-a-half hour plane ride – from home. For a while back in the fall, Haro desperately missed life in Garden Grove, where her family situation is both unique and normal. It’s a bit complicated. Her mother died tragically from blood loss that occurred during the birth of Hhana, who also lost her biological father a few months later. At the time of her birth, Hhana had an older sister Crystal who was then 21 years old. Crystal took Hhana in like she was her own daughter.
Crystal is “mom” to Hhana and Crystal’s husband Greg Arguelles is “dad.” And her cousins? They are really like her siblings of course. Said Hhana, “There’s never a question about who has the authority in the house. My brother and sister are young. They know I’m their sister. It’s just a normal family. I think I was five years old when I found out. It was never a secret. Everyone knew about it.”
What seemed less well-known, even in Southern Cal, was Hhana’s incredible ability to hit a softball. She received intense interest from Concordia, GPAC rival Doane, local NAIA schools such as Vanguard and even attracted some level of attention from smaller NCAA Division I institutions. But considering the sparkling freshman season she just polished off, there should have been a shark-like feeding frenzy to land a prize such as Haro.
Graduate assistant coach Naomi Tellez first discovered Haro at a tournament in California. It was actually Tellez’s father Jose who noticed Haro. The 5-foot-4 Haro delivered three hits in a row as Jose looked on. Tellez had been there specifically to see someone else, but suddenly Haro became a prime target.
“I started seeing this coach constantly at my games,” recalled Haro of her repeated sightings of Tellez. “I was like, ‘Wow, she’s really nice and she seems like she really likes me.’ I had been talking to other schools at the time. Something about this school just spoke out to me with the family-like atmosphere. I kind of like small schools. Education was a big part. Yeah I was coming to play college softball but I wanted to make sure they had my major.”
Back in August, Haro shucked California in favor of the cornfields of Nebraska. She took a leap of faith on a softball program and a university that she had not previously visited. At the same time, LaVelle still had yet to see Haro play. Here she was enrolled as a business administration major in a very different place.
“I’m used to the big city life,” Haro said. “My parents were like, ‘Oh my gosh, look at the corn.’ I’m not going to lie, when I first got here I had to take a deep breath and soak it in. I was literally surrounded by corn.”
Haro may have felt like a fish out of water in the beginning, but she was clearly in her element when on the softball field. Her love affair with the game can be traced back to her early tee ball days when she played in a league for boys. At the age of eight, Haro realized “there was this whole girl version of baseball.” She briefly tried being a cheerleader, which helped inform her just how much she needed softball in her life.
LaVelle surely won’t complain about such decisions that have aided her rise to stardom at the collegiate level. According to LaVelle, her freshman season was only the start.
Said LaVelle, “When she got here in the fall I got a chance to meet her and her mom and dad. We had a good conversation. As a person, you can see her outstanding qualities coming through. I knew right there we had a jewel for a person. When we got on the diamond the next week it was pretty obvious what a special player she was. She just has tremendous quick hands. She sees the spin of the ball really well. We knew early on that she was going to be a tremendous hitter.”
Even at that point it would have been a stretch to dream up the news that came to light in early May. It wasn’t fake news. Haro is indeed the GPAC Player of the Year after enjoying what was arguably the greatest season at the plate by any Bulldog, ever. Said Haro, “I was really shocked. When I found out it was just crazy to think as a freshman I was able to accomplish this. I was so excited to call my friends and family and my mom to tell her what happened.”
What happened is that Haro found comfort in an environment outside her comfort zone. She’s even learned to appreciate Nebraska, where she’s made new friends, went snow sledding for the first time and where she plans to work this July for LaVelle’s “corn business” (also known as Team Elite, a detasseling company). Talk about a full Nebraska experience.
For now, we wait until next March to watch Hhana hhit more hhomers.