Haley Rainey is a sticky note person. Whether it’s using them to plan out the various classes, practices, weight lifts, or social events in her life, she has them everywhere.
But the most important use of sticky notes for Rainey is goal-setting. The former Adna softball standout has sticky notes in all kinds of places to remind her of her goals and what she wants to do, short-term or long-term.
Years and years later, Rainey still has her first sticky note, and one that reads a realized dream.
“I want to play Division I softball.”
Before the fastpitch star even thought of playing softball at the collegiate level at all, in her freshman season at Adna, a coach told her if she put in the work, she could get a scholarship and play ball at the highest level. Rainey couldn’t contain her tears after practice while contemplating the possibility.
“I started bawling after practice,” she said. “I didn’t believe I could do it at times, but him saying that and me playing well in travel ball helped me see that I could do it. I worked towards that goal all the time. That’s a big one for me. That’s the first sticky note I wrote and it’s still the most important to me.”
Rainey then tore it up in travel ball and in Lewis County. She was a four-time first team all league player, a Chronicle area MVP, and a state champion as a Pirate. That was enough to get her a scholarship at Idaho State, where she played last spring.
But again, before she even stepped foot in Pocatello, Rainey wrote down another goal on a sticky note.
“I want to be the best pitcher in the Big Sky.”
After a year of work at Idaho State, and nearly 2,300 pitches thrown, Rainey didn’t quite earn that honor in her debut season, but was named the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year.
She went 15-11 with a 3.46 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 157 ⅔ innings pitched. In 31 appearances, she threw 14 complete games with three shutouts and ranked fifth in the Big Sky in ERA.
“It’s shooting high and falling among the stars,” Rainey said. “I was so happy and super proud of myself for almost getting that goal.”
It didn’t come without its struggles, though. Not used to playing in the thin air of Pocatello and the mountains, the hard-throwing righty had to work relentlessly on her off-speed and movement during the middle of the season after giving up some early home runs to opposing hitters.
After giving up seven home runs in nonconference play, Rainey buckled down and gave up just two homers to conference opponents.
“It was kind of a grind,” she said. “There’s a huge learning curve in college. In those mountains in the Big Sky, the air is thin. I throw hard, but I have to spin it lower, these balls can’t leave the park. I saw that quickly and worked really hard on drop balls and change-ups to keep balls in the infield.”
The success Rainey enjoyed in just her first season pitching most of the innings for the Bengals, in part, has now helped her to move on and play at Cal State Fullerton this upcoming season after entering the transfer portal.
The sophomore-to-be is looking forward to the warm weather of Fullerton and working with a pitching staff of more than one.
“I love the campus and coaches. They’re like family,” Rainey said. “We didn’t even talk about softball for about 10 minutes. I’m really excited to have a pitching staff, too, after throwing like 2,300 pitches for Idaho state. It was really fun and really hard, if you were struggling they kept throwing you. There’s going to be at least four of us at Fullerton fighting for each other and playing for each other.”
Her new coach, Kelly Ford, who first hand saw what Rainey could do against her team in Fullerton last year, was complimentary of the righty.
“Haley stood out to us when we faced Idaho State this spring,” Ford said. “Each coach was impressed and said if she enters the portal we will go after her. Her presence and confidence in the circle was so impressive. We love her competitive fire and the Titans got better with her commitment.”
The Titans were an NCAA tournament team this past year playing in the Big West Conference. Fullerton competed with some of the nation’s best on a consistent basis, including victories over two Women’s College World Series teams at the Mary Nutter Classic in February in Arizona and Northwestern.
For a girl from Adna, her blistering ascent speaks to the work she’s put in. Rainey came back to watch the Pirates team this year in the first round of districts, and even threw the current squad some pitches before their postseason run.
After not really having that caliber of role model herself, she wants to give back any way she can to a program that gave her so much.
“I want to be like that for some of those kids,” Rainey said. “Someone that they can ask some of those questions or feel comfortable asking. I’ve always wanted for them to be comfortable talking with me and for me to show them how to do this. That’s a really big part of my why. Being able to play for them and create that platform for them. That’s where I’d like to be. It’s really cool to have that connection with them, it’s really rewarding.”
And now, entering a new chapter of her career in Fullerton, Rainey is devising new sticky notes to tack on her mirror or walls.
She hasn’t come up with one yet, but before the season begins in February, you can bet one will be visible to her every day.
“I have an idea of what I want it to be,” she said. “I’m toying between throwing the last pitch of our last game at the NCAA tournament and I want to be the Big West Conference pitcher of the year.”
No matter the goal, no matter the team, or season, you’ll be able to find Rainey throwing pitches, in the weight room, or working on her game in other ways. Shortly after her season ended in Pocatello, Rainey was back to playing with a summer team. In June she headed up to Canada to play in a tournament.
A new sticky note won’t change her love for the game of softball.
“Pitching is like therapy for me,” she said. “It’s what I do for fun, it’s relaxing. It’s my escape. I like to get back into it. It helps me a ton with everything else.”