Local softball players chosen to represent the United States in series of softball games
Three lake area softball players flew across the Atlantic Ocean and set foot in Italy on Monday.
Camdenton senior Jenna Sweatt, Camdenton junior Bayley Miller and Macks Creek 2016 graduate Micah Schmidt will be wearing the red, white and blue representing the United States as they compete in a series of softball games against local Italian teams from July 11 to 19.
They are members of the Missouri Dawgs softball travel team, which was chosen by an organization known as “America’s Team” that gives kids the opportunity to compete internationally in softball and other sports such as volleyball, basketball, lacrosse and baseball while also taking the time to learn about a different culture. According to America’s Team Founder and President Brigham Joy, there will be 20 softball teams from across the nation competing in seven different countries. Missouri Dawgs Coach Dawn Decker said the organization saw the team playing in a tournament in Kansas City last year and they were identified for their character off the field and athletic ability on the field. Decker certainly agrees with that observation.
“These girls are an excellent representation of their school, communities, families and the United States itself,” the coach noted. “I think they are going to make their local communities very proud.”
After successfully fundraising for the trip, the group will play games against local teams from Milan, Florence and Rome. They will play two games in each city with the first being the U.S. against Italy and the second being a mix of players from each country. The games will be followed by a dinner or social event with each local Italian team and the group will also get to check out the local sites.
Schmidt is the only one of the three who has left American soil before having been to Canada, but she said she is looking forward to experiencing a different culture once again.
“I was a little skeptical at first because I thought it was too good to be true,” the Macks Creek graduate said. “The reality of it did not set in until this past week when we really realized we were going and this was really happening.”
Her teammates just up Highway 54 are not taking this trip for granted either.
“It is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to go over and play the game you love,” Miller stated. “When you get to do it with a great group of girls it makes it all the more exciting and not many people get to do that. I’m excited to go over and learn about their culture and see things like the Coliseum and St. Peter’s Basilica.”
Her Camdenton teammate Sweatt concurred.
“I was very excited to say the least,” Sweatt remarked. “It was a little scary and I was a little nervous at first because this is a new experience for me. I cant wait to see what their daily norms are and if they treat tourists any different than we do. I want to live a normal Italian lifestyle for a couple of days because I have never known anything different. It is a great opportunity for my team and not just myself.”
Decker is glad all three players have that mindset and hope they come back to share their experience and what they have learned with others.
“My son has played overseas for the United States in basketball and he said it is about the learning experience,” Decker recalled. “Just soaking in the fact that you are in a country you may never come back to and what you can bring back and share with the community. I hope they use that experience in school and among their families and neighbors.”
However, there is no doubt the coach wants her team to take care of business on the diamond as well.
“I want them to have the mindset that we are America and this is our sport,” Decker said. “Just play mentally tough on the field all the time and give it their all. When they step on the field and put on their uniforms that say ‘USA’ on their chest with such a sense of pride I want them to play up to that level of pride.”
Schmidt plays catcher and in the outfield, Miller is an infielder and catcher and Sweatt is a pitcher and outfielder. No matter what task they may be called to do, Decker said all three players bring leadership in their own way.
“Bayley leads by example and because of her style it comes naturally,” Decker pointed out. “Girls will run through a wall for her because of her presence and they want to work hard for their teammate. Jenna is more vocal and she lifts the girls up. Micah has to be a verbal leader being a catcher, but also leads by example. Playing multiple positions, their leadership makes us stronger.”
Miller said it has certainly been beneficial getting plenty of practices and games in to stay sharp and be prepared and Sweatt said she is hoping all their hard work will pay off when it comes time to take the field.
“We just have to play the game the way we know and were coached and the rest will carry on,” Sweatt said. “I’m excited to represent the lake area and I hope that we represent well.”
The two will undoubtedly use this experience to help their team at Camdenton. Meanwhile, Schmidt will use this opportunity to grow as a freshman softball player at Westminster University, but she has a few words of advice for the softball players who take the field this fall for Macks Creek.
“Work hard and put your heart into it,” she said.
Macks Creek Softball Coach Jason Trusty has seen Schmidt do exactly that throughout her four years as a Pirate.
“Micah is a great athlete to coach and it was difficult to see her graduate,” Trusty said. “She is a hard worker who puts in the extra time needed to improve her game and she grew into a great backstop for us. My hope is that her hard work and drive are seen and that those that are coming in and are already here continue to work hard. We wish her luck in this upcoming trip.”
Whether the umpire says ‘play ball’ or ‘giocare a palla’, when each game begins, the thrill of competition, the opportunity to make new friends and learn about another culture is not a bad way for anyone to spend part of their summer.