NEW PALESTINE — When Michaela Jones was named the most valuable player at a softball camp at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa this summer, her big sister Mackenzie couldn’t have been happier.
“I’ve seen her improve so much,” 15-year-old Mackenzie said. “It’s good because her doing so good pushes me.”
There is no sibling rivalry among the New Palestine sisters known as Mic and Mac, who have played softball together, often on the same team, since they were young children.
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They both hope to one day play at the collegiate level, maybe even on the same squad, at a Southeastern Conference school.
“We always have fun talking about softball,” 13-year-old Michaela said.
“I can’t wait to have her on the high school team with me playing on the same field as me,” Mackenzie said.
Mackenzie is heading into her sophomore year at New Palestine High School. She stood out as a pitcher and infielder for the Dragons’ varsity and junior varsity softball teams during her freshman year.
It looks like her little sister Michaela, an eighth-grader at Doe Creek Middle School, is following in her footsteps after winning MVP honors at camp.
Michaela outplayed about 100 seventh- and eighth-graders from across the United States to earn the top honor.
“It was such a great experience that not many kids get the chance to do,” Michaela said.
Not only did Michaela walk away as the top middle school player at the camp in Alabama, she also won a new glove and some Alabama gear.
Ed Marcum, head softball coach at New Palestine High School, said he’s been giving Mic and Mac hitting lessons since their youth. He said both girls work extremely hard and have a bright future in the game.
“They’re both really competitive,” Marcum said. “But what I think is neat is that you’ve got a younger sister who is really good and that pushes Mac a little bit.”
Marcum is looking forward to a day when both girls might be able to play on the varsity team together.
“We have to wait and see how both of them keep developing,” Marcum said. “But it’s been great to watch both kids continue to grow and support and push each other.”
Along with the camp appearances, the sisters are spending much of their summer working on their softball skills playing travel ball all over the United States for the Indy Diamond Chix out of New Palestine.
Their stepfather Gary Phillips, who has coached the girls since youth and now with travel ball, said they have a lot of fun together.
“It’s such a great way to watch them grow up,” Phillips said. “We’re on the road traveling a lot for softball, and we get to do a lot of fun things together.”
To watch both players excel has been a real joy, he said.
“It’s great to see their hard work pay off,” Phillips said. “They have both worked that hard and deserve it.”
The girls lost their biological father when they were elementary-aged children. Their mother, Angela Phillips, said softball has been a way for her daughters to bond with their stepfather.
“Michaela’s stepdad is from Alabama, so her whole room is decked out in Alabama, and that’s where she wants to play her college ball,” Angela said. “For her to do so well at that Alabama camp was a big deal.”
While both girls love the sport, their mom said Mackenzie really shines when it comes to working out and putting in the dedication needed to be a great athlete.
“For Michaela, she’s always had that great hand-eye coordination,” Angela said.
Both girls, though, are able to play well under pressure and actually thrive when the game is on the line, they said.
“The thing about softball is there aren’t that many plays,” Michaela said. “When you make a big play, it’s a big deal because you don’t always get the chance to make them.”
Mackenzie said her younger sister is definitely the better infielder.
“She covers a lot of ground,” Mackenzie said.
When it comes to offense, Mackenzie is known more for being a power hitter, while Michaela can slap the ball all over the field. Still, they both say by the time they graduate from high school the goal is to just have fun playing together and maybe even bring home a state championship for the Dragons.
“That would be great to be able to do that together,” Mackenzie said.