So I had a rough draft written up of a blog I wanted to post the first week of March and put off editing and posting it. Now that I’m back at home with the suspension of the Stand Beside Her tour, it’s pretty interesting looking back at certain parts of what I had written. Specifically, how I wrote so much about how excited our team was about meeting the fans and sharing our excitement with them. After this past week of the many cancellations of sports seasons and limitation of fans at sporting events, it truly puts so many things in perspective for people who either take great joy in sports or even depend financially on sporting events. Go ahead and read on if you’d like to see what the first leg of tour was like for us pre-pandemic. I’ll add a little more at the end talking about what this past week has been like.
It’s been awhile since I’ve last blogged so since we have a little down time from tour let me catch you up on what’s been going on.
First month of tour was great for our team! Typically our season is only in the summer so we really only have a short few days for practice and getting on the same page before games get going. With the Olympics in July, we’ve been given the opportunity to train together from February until the Olympics with the Stand Beside Her tour. So the first leg of tour has been more of getting our feet wet and figuring out different things we need to work on individually and as a team as we are touring around playing against colleges.
First let me explain a little bit behind the name “Stand Beside Her tour” since I overheard a college player after a game asking her teammate, “Who’s Her?”. ‘Stand beside her’ is a lyrical line in the song ‘God Bless America’. I love how much meaning there is behind this phrase! Not only does it come from one of the most patriotic songs in American history but it asks America to come stand beside us! As an American female athlete, as a softball player, who in our sport we really never know when the next Olympics will be or let alone what the next year promises for the future of our sport. All we do know is softball has been a growing sport in our country and we ask the fans to continue to stand beside us in this journey towards the Olympics in our ultimate goal of getting that Gold medal.
Back to talk on this first leg of tour! We were predominantly in Florida and ended the tour with a stop at the University of Arizona and then the Mary Nutter tournament in Cathedral City, California. Some of the most special games for us have been against some of my teammates’ previous and current colleges as well as the colleges some might coach at. I’m not going to lie, but I might have gotten a little teary eyed at Katie Seashole (Florida) and Rita Hillenbrand (Arizona) stadiums as we felt the fans beaming with pride and joy of their fellow Wildcat and Gators in Dejah, Michelle, Aubrey, and Kelsey. To share this experience with college fans is very special because of not only the popularity NCAA softball has but because college softball was some of the best memories of our lives. The college softball stage is the biggest stage that most of our team has played at and it is exciting to prepare for an even bigger stage of the Olympic games along side the support that helped us along the way.
No, we won’t be playing Oklahoma during the tour BUT we will be in OKC playing during the WCWS in May, so keep an eye out!
We have met and heard words of encouragement from a few former Olympians so far this tour and even taken batting practice off Michele Smith and Jennie Finch! Growing up having a Jennie Finch poster on my wall and always trying to mimic her glove arm, I had goosebumps every round of my BP!
For me, personally it’s been really cool to take in how awesome my teammates are and growing with them. This season is the first time we get to bond with one another through the highs and lows, the good and the bad that goes beyond just the few weeks we had together in our summer seasons; living on the road together, working out in the weight room together, and going through two-a-days. I am used to typically working out by myself during season before practice and games so it’s nice to get after it with my teammates. I’ve been lifting with Monica Abbott quite a bit and let me tell you: don’t let those stick legs fool you, she is a strong woman! I’ve slowly turned my roommate Dejah Mulipola into a chocoholic. If you know me, you know I only eat dark dark chocolate. 85% and above. Last summer Dejah was slowly working her way up and I am so proud of her eating 88% now! (Yes I know my chocoholic talk is a problem, I gave it up for Lent. Wish me luck!)
We head back on tour next week to California, Washington and Oregon! Should be some great games and great crowds! I’m personally looking forward to seeing the Jane at the University of Oregon. I’ve seen pictures and have heard how awesome their stadium and fans are! I am also looking forward to seeing my former pitching coach Melyssa Lombardi in her new home going into her second year as the head coach at Oregon.
As of today, we are unsure when or if we will be getting together as a team this spring. As we know, soooo much changes occur with this Coronivirus pandemic day to day and even hour to hour. We received the news the day we flew into Seattle, Washington. We landed in Seattle, dropped our bags off at the hotel and headed to practice. Once practice was finished, we got on the bus and pulled out our phones to see the news of the NBA suspending their season. A meeting was called that evening to tell us our tour had been suspended. Everyone's heart just dropped. Some of us caught red eyes home that night and the rest caught flights out in the morning.
It is absolutely heartbreaking to see seasons being cancelled, high school state championship games cancelled, and seniors having to cope with if they truly will be able to play another season whether if their body or financial situations allow it. Yes, it does not seem fair, but at the end of the day it wouldn’t be fair to be putting more and more people at risk of this virus which is what sporting events would be doing. If my senior season was shut down half way though the season, I would have been a devastated 21 year old because of how much time and training I did put into the sport on a day to day basis. Our team was ranked #1 in the nation for most of that 2013 season and we were so determined to get that National Championship that we ended up winning the first week of June. It felt that softball did take up most of my identity putting so much into the sport. What I’ve really been admiring on social media lately is the student athletes choosing to praise God during this time or the ones sharing their love and memories with their teammates. Sports doesn’t define us and a world wide pandemic is almost what we need sometimes to truly be reminded of that.
For those that have reached out feeling sorry for the USA Softball team, thank you for your thoughts and prayers, we are all healthy and safe and softball was not completely taken from our lives forever. We are all home, and safe. It could be worse! Yes, our sport has been anticipating the year 2020 for so long. Yes, we’ve been so excited to finally start our Olympic journey and share it with all of you. This is just one part of this journey. We will continue to work towards getting that Gold medal for our country every single day and take advantage of controlling the controllables! It’s a bummer that we won’t be able to share the Stand Beside Her tour with the tens of thousands of fans that we were supposed to share this journey with during these next few months but we know you all are standing beside us from afar (I guess that is one way of practicing social-distancing).
Keep washing your hands DILIGENTLY and stay smart and safe out there!