Megan Wiggins called softball her saving grace.

She was a star at Shiloh and earned a full ride to the University of Georgia, but it wasn’t a road without bumps.

“It wasn’t handed to me,” Wiggins said. “There are a lot of different journeys out there. I want to be able to share mine.”

When one of the players Wiggins gives private lessons to told her a girl at school wanted to fight her, Wiggins knew the feeling.

“I’m like, trust me, I’ve been there and done that,” Wiggins said with humor in her voice. “I wasn’t this perfect straight-A student all the way through high school that never got in trouble. I definitely did.

“Softball kind of kept me in check enough that I didn’t do anything crazy or stupid enough that I couldn’t come back from. When you’re able to share stories that are the same as what they’re going through, it puts it in perspective.”

Wiggins, a seven-time All-National Pro Fastpitch selection, opened her own training facility last month in Hoschton, just eight minutes from her home in Winder.

It’s the latest step in a Hall of Fame career that hasn’t ended.

Her ninth season of professional softball begins in June. On May 1, she’ll be inducted into the Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame as part of the 2019 class. Last November, Wiggins was similarly honored by the Gwinnett Fastpitch Diamond Club, but it’s not the kind of thing someone gets used to.

“(I’m) so humbled and honored to receive this award,” she tweeted when the announcement was made in March.

Wiggins is part of class that includes longtime South Gwinnett baseball coach John Sawyer, Norcross and Clemson team manager David Saville, former Collins Hill and Norcross basketball coach Angie Hembree, Brookwood and Georgia Bulldogs football player Rennie Curran and South Gwinnett grad Mickey Conn, a former Grayson and current Clemson coach.

Wiggins became the first Bulldog and just 11th player ever to reach 200 RBIs and 200 runs scored, but her college career got off to a difficult start. Wiggins had a serious ankle injury in the fall of her freshman year and also struggled to balance the demands of school and sport. She credits UGA head coach Lu Harris-Champer with turning a really good high school player into something more.

“And that didn’t happen in a year,” Wiggins said. “It was a process, but I learned a lot from Coach Harris and being in college. It was life-changing, There are things I learned that I will never forget that I pass on to the girls I work with.”

Wiggins had a school-record 121 extra-base hits (61 doubles, 14 triples, 46 home runs), earned All-Southeastern Conference honors three times and helped the Bulldogs to two World Series Final Fours. Those appearances pushed the program into the national spotlight.

“Georgia, before I got there, was already a great team,” Wiggins said. “But I think we kept building on what they set in the place and further put Georgia softball on the map. I can’t show you any rings that I won, but we did a lot while we were there and we were playing some really great SEC teams.

“I think we for sure put them on the map, especially when comes to recruiting. Nowadays, people see you in the World Series and that’s where all the kids want to go. As far as that and just the things we were able to do against our opponents, I think it really opened people’s eyes to how Harris coached and our standard.”

During one of those postseason runs, Wiggins made ESPN’s top 10 three times. She’s known for her bat, but two of those highlight reel moments were defensive plays in the outfield.

“That was kind of cool,” Wiggins said. “People tend to not pay attention to it, but I take great pride in defense — and in hitting. My craft is important.”

Wiggins was drafted out of college in 2011 and has been playing professionally since, in the U.S. and in Japan. She played for the Chicago Bandits for four seasons before coming to the USSSA’s Pride in Florida. Wiggins reports for her fifth season with the Pride in late May and will play nearly 50 games in just 2 ½ months.

“It’s jam-packed,” Wiggins said.

She’s also turning 30 next month so staying at the top of her game requires progressively more effort.

“I want to keep playing like I’m 21,” she said. “The only way I can do that is if I take care of my body. That’s something, growing up, I never had to worry about. Even after college, because I went to Japan, that structure and being so active you can eat rice and sushi all the time and not worry you’ll gain 80 pounds.

“Food is my top weakness, but that’s something I’m having to find a way to make it work with my schedule, knowing I need structure. That’s one of the main reasons I got my own facility eight minutes away.”

She needs structure and it doesn’t have to be regimented.

“I can go at 2 a.m. if I want to,” Wiggins said.

But opening her own facility was driven equally by a desire to pass on what she’s learned — and not just to other softball players. She’s taught classes to her mom and her friends from church.

“It’s been a dream of mine,” said Wiggins, who also owns an antiques business. “Just to create a place where I can run a business the way I want to run it, do it the right way and really help, not only kids, but people, get better, whether that’s in softball, sport or just training.

“I want to help make them their best self. I’m still trying to figure out my best self, so for me, it’s a pretty cool thing that I’m able to do. I’m still growing as a part of this business journey that I’m on and I really think it’s going to help me become a better person, a better coach and just stronger.”

Wiggins is coming off of an MVP season in 2018 where she hit .301, scored 37 runs and had 43 hits. She led the NPF with 35 RBIs and tied teammate Lauren Chamberlain with a league-leading 12 home runs.

“Creating structure for me is important,” Wiggins said. “I can be successful if I’m not structured, but I won’t be my best. I’ve been at what my best feels like so I want to continue to be that.”

Wiggins also is sought-after for softball clinics, a number of those through USSSA.

“I love to be able to work with teams and really share my experience and my knowledge,” she said. “That’s other reason why I wanted to open a facility, to help people understand how I got to where I am and the things I went through.

“I had the right tools, the right structure, the right coaching. That’s what is so rewarding, taking a kid that knows nothing and kind of helping her grow up and realize the bigger picture.”

It doesn’t stop at the cage.

“I love being a part of these girls’ lives,” Wiggins said. “For me, it doesn’t stop with softball education. Because if I didn’t have a proper life education and good morals, then I wouldn’t be where I am as far as softball. That kind of stuff comes first, but a lot of lessons I learned about life came though softball.”

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