Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Until Next Summer.....

Hey Everyone!

This whirlwind of a quarter has come to an end.  What an experience.  I am beyond grateful for the opportunities that playing for Team Canada has presented me.  It is hard to believe that a few short years ago I showed up to a Team Canada tryout in Vancouver, not having a single clue of what to expect.  It has now been an amazing three and a half years.  I have played on three different continents, in six different countries: Canada, the United States, Venezuela, Columbia, Mexico and now South Africa.  I have seen so much of the world, simply playing the game I love.  It has opened so many doors for me.  It brought me to Sorcerer, to the All-America game my senior year of high school and of course, to the University of Washington.  Team Canada has honestly changed my life and I am thankful every single day.

These three weeks flew by.  I am now back in California, sitting on my couch looking through pictures, already reminiscing on the amazing time I had with my coaches and teammates…the amazing places we visited, the amazing things we saw, and the amazing people we met.  Although we didn’t medal, I learned a lot from watching.  Every team plays the game differently, especially the Asian teams, and I am hoping to incorporate elements of their game into my own.  The final game was an exciting one to watch as the United States won gold, defeating Japan 4-1.  If I couldn't be the one out on the field competing for the title of "World Champion", there's no one else I'd rather be supporting than one of my best friends and teammates Kylee Lahners.

Later that night, our team took our official team photo and did a little "White Elephant" gift exchange as our final goodbye.  In a "White Elephant" gift exchange, everyone is given a number.  One by one, people have the option to either steal someone's gift or choose a new gift to unwrap.  I was fourth and unwrapped hand-carved giraffe hair pins.  They were stolen a couple of times and at the end of the game, I had the final decision of choosing whether to steal a gift or end the game by unwrapping the final gift....I was pretty bold and decided to take a chance on the final gift.....It was a pair of 1/2 inch long, clear, buttons...........hands down the worst gift in the entire group.  But c'est la vie! It was a great way to say goodbye and spend our last night together as a team.   

The next morning, we headed out to the airport.  We said goodbye to our amazing host and bus driver and began our trek home.  We flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg to Dakar to Washington DC together as a team.  From there, I said my goodbyes and sprinted to my connecting flight to San Francisco.  From when I left the hotel to when I arrived at home...it was 34 hours of total traveling.  It feels so good to be home, but sleeping has already become a huge issue with the ten hour time change.

In closing...to my friends, family and followers, thank you all for the continued support.  I can’t believe the success this blog has had.  At first it was just for close friends and family, it has now spread to countries all over the world, with thousands of views.

I would also like to thank my teammates, coaches and support staff for making this trip truly unforgettable.  Although it was my last event playing with them on the Junior National Team, I know our paths will cross again in the near future.  I wish all of my teammates the best.  Good luck to everyone at school this year and I hope we will play together in the future with Team Canada.

As always, it is an honor to play for the Canadian National Team and wear the red and white.  Over the past three years I have accumulated amazing memories and made friends that I know will last a lifetime… I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Happy Holidays everyone & GO CANADA!

Jocelyn and I after our last game

Outside the stadium
Before climbing Table Mountain 

At the top!

So glad they did the climb with me! Miss you guys already!

Beautiful Cape Town

Great way to end our trip.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

All good things must come to an end.

Hey Everyone!

Sorry it has taken me so long to post this....I simply wasn't able to put into words the emotions and everything I was feeling yesterday.  We lost our game to Chinese Taipei 2-1, booting us out of the tournament.  Not only did it mark the end of our tournament, but also the end of my career on the Canadian Junior National Team.  Chinese Taipei came out with more fire and energy than us, and unfortunately it was reflected in the score.  Although it was sad knowing our run at becoming the 2011 Junior World Champions was over, this trip was so much more than that.  I was able to meet amazing people, tour the beautiful country of South Africa, and play the sport I love for an entire three weeks.

Since we were no longer playing games, we had the entire day off to spend with our families.  My Dad, Karissa, Natalie W. and I all spent this morning climbing Table Mountain.  Table Mountain is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is absolutely spectacular.  (I'll upload pictures soon!)  It is a crazy hot spot for tourists and visitors, with a gondola that takes passengers both up and down the mountain for about $12 American each way.  Instead, we decided to climb the mountain.  Being athletes and thinking we could accomplish just about anything, we didn't take the easy, walking/hiking route...we took the route titled "India Venster".  This path was hidden behind a few bushes and was claimed to be for "experts only".  Although none of us are expert rock climbers or mountaineers by any stretch of the imagination, we were up for the challenge.  Little did we know, many people had died taking this path up to the top of the mountain......

Anyways, the climb was far from easy. We began our climb at 7:30AM, but man was it HOT outside!  We were taking water breaks constantly and my shirt was drenched within the first fifteen minutes.  The scenes were breathtaking as we climbed along the side of the mountain, stopping to pose for pictures every so often.  Once we reached the top, it was almost anticlimactic, for what we had experienced in the previous two hours was truly unforgettable and the experience of a lifetime.

Now I have to start packing up my things....no point in further delaying the inevitable.  We're heading to Cape Town airport tomorrow morning...I can't believe we're already heading back to North America :(

I'll have more tomorrow - this was just a little piece to hold you over.

Thank you all so much for your continued support.



Friday, December 16, 2011

Fooled by their cuteness.

Hey Everyone!

As many of you have heard, yesterday didn't go exactly as planned.  We had our big game against the Japanese - the winner guaranteed a medal - and we lost a tough, but exciting game 7-1.  Although it sounds pretty lopsided, the game was intense and we made some great plays.  I brought eye-black from home and thought it was the perfect game for its' debut...and it definitely was!  Our team came out with more energy and enthusiasm than ever before.  We threw out runners from the outfield, picked runners off at both first and third and played great routine D.  We can only tip our hats to the Japanese, for they played a flawless game of ball.

Our lone run came in the third inning with the score 3-0 Japan.  Kristy Noble led off with a double to the wall.  With one out, Jenny was hit by a pitch and now runners were at the corners.  I was up.  After taking a few pitches, I lifted one to deep left field....man, I thought it was going out! At the warning track, the Japanese left fielder caught it, allowing Noble to score easily from third.  I was 0-2 with a fielder's choice, stolen base (Back-Door-Betty to all my Washington teammates), and sac fly.  Throughout the entire game, we only collected three hits, but were making solid contact throughout.

Throughout our preparation for this game, our Coaches kept telling us "don't get fooled by their cuteness"...basically saying, although they look cute and nice, they WILL pummel you into the ground if they can.  They are relentless.  Safe to say we were a little fooled by their cuteness, because they can play.

With that game behind us, we have a single life left in the tournament.  Our game today is at 2:30PM against Chinese Taipei, the third place finisher of the other pool.  If we win, we go on to play the winner of Aussies vs. Kiwis (New Zealand) at 7:30PM - one of the biggest rivalries I have ever seen in sport.  If we lose at all today, we are out.  If we win both games, we guarantee ourselves a medal.  We are well rested and ready for the challenge.

Time to get ready for our game, eye-black and all.



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The reason we're all here.

Hey Everyone! (this was supposed to be posted last night – lack of Internet, sorry!)

When I woke up this morning, I thought to myself “there’s no way we’re playing today…”  I looked out my window at 9:00AM and it looked as though there had been a flash flood.  And let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be an international softball tournament without a rain delay! Anyways, we arrived at the field and it was in surprisingly good shape! With tarps covering the field all night long and the field crew in the outfield with sponges collecting the excess water, the field looked more than playable.  After a delay of only forty-five minutes, we were sent to the practice field for a quick warm up before our first pitch against the Czech Republic.  We ended up run-ruling the Czech in four innings, 11-1…finishing up pool play with a 6-1 record and snagging second place.  This tournament’s playoff round is very different in that four of the eight qualifying teams play double elimination while the other four have only a single life.  Our pool is 1. USA, 2. Canada, 3. New Zealand, 4. China.  The other pool is 1. Japan, 2. Australia, 3. Chinese Taipei, 4. Brazil.  Tomorrow, with back-to-back games beginning at 12:30, New Zealand vs. Brazil, China vs. Chinese Taipei, USA vs. Australia and last but certainly not least, our 7:30PM game against Japan. 

Our team spent the remainder of the afternoon sightseeing.  Our bus driver drove us along the beautiful coast of South Africa, on a street called Victoria Road (how fitting!), until we finally arrived at Hout Bay.  We were able to get off of the bus, take some pictures and watch a few seals getting fed literally feet away from us….
Hout Bay

The Daddy Seal!

The beautiful coast of South Africa
Larisa and I on top of a mountain, overlooking the entire city and coast!
The reason we’re here in South Africa is to compete for a medal and win a World Championship…and it all begins tomorrow, against the Japanese.  It will be a good test for our team and I am excited to see how our team responses to such a challenge.



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Just another day in paradise

Hey Everyone!

What a twenty-four hours it has been!  We played South Africa last night and after a slow start, ended up mercy-ing them 7-0.  Standing at 4-1 before this morning's game, our game against China would determine whether or not we would clinch second place in our pool, behind team USA.

Our game against China was at noon today and although it started slowly, it ended with a bang.  Here's a full write up of the game courtesy of Softball Canada: http://www.softball.ca/main.asp?page_url=/display_news.asp?newsid=960.  In short, we were getting runners on base constantly, but until the fourth inning, we were all tied up 1-1.  With the bases loaded, I was up and hit a single through the middle, scoring two runs and putting us ahead 3-1.  After holding the Chinese scoreless in the bottom of the fourth inning, we had a huge nine run fifth inning.  With one out in the fifth, our hitters strung a couple of hits together to load the bases.  For the second time in the game, I was up with the bases juiced.  After ball one, there was a pitching change...It's not too often you face multiple pitchers within an at bat, but after fouling off a pitch and bringing the count to 3-1 I hit a deep fly ball to right field...It kept going, and going, and going! My first career grand slam, or "batter's dream" as they call it here in South Africa :) - Shout out to Erika for letting me borrow her bat!!!

We ended up putting a few more runs on the board and holding the Chinese to a lone run in the bottom of the fifth.  Another run rule win for Canada!  With this win, we have clinched the second place spot in the pool - meaning double elimination in the playoff round...something that is really going to help us out when we are competing for a medal in the coming days.

After our game, we went back to the hotel, changed, and headed out to the "Green Market" to shop with our parents.  Green Market is a small bazaar-like shopping area where local vendors sell just about everything.  There were paintings, wood carved items, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, drums, traditional masks, keychains, and so much more.  I would go into detail about everything I bought, but that would spoil a few peoples' Christmas gifts :)!  After browsing the shops for thirty minutes, my Dad took me a couple blocks away from the market to a food court.  This wasn't just any food court with McDonalds, Burger King and Taco Bell...this food court was beautiful.  Judging by the people eating in the food court, it was definitely a local favorite.  Old style doors, decades old, lined one side of the alley-way.  Lining the right side of the alley were six or seven different stall-like restaurants, each with a different type of Indian or Middle-Eastern food.  After ordering at a centralized cashier station, my Dad and I took our receipt to one of the Indian booths and watched them make our chicken marsala and garlic Naan bread...it was delicious, hands down the best meal I have had thus far in South Africa.  It is amazing the diversity of the city.  A mixture of Indian, Asian, Dutch, English, European and African makes for not only amazing food...but culture, music, and so much more.

This place continues to amaze me.  Such great people and amazing things to see.  Apparently tomorrow we are going to the top of Table Mountain....and I can't wait! Tomorrow is our last pool play game, against Czech Republic.  Although it doesn't affect our standings in the pool, it sets the standard of how we are going to play for the rest of the tournament...I am already anxious and excited to get back onto the field tomorrow!

Here's a little shout out to my family and my best friend Kaitlin Inglesby for reading all my blogs and supporting me all the way from Seattle, it means so much to me!

Love you all, thanks for following!



Monday, December 12, 2011

Our Big Night Out

Hey Everyone!

It’s Tuesday morning and we just returned to the hotel from our morning practice. 

Last night I was able to spend some time with my Dad for a few hours at a local mall on the waterfront.  We had dinner with Jocelyn and her dad John in the food court and browsed the mall for a few hours.  This mall was absolutely beautiful.  It had every store you could imagine, both American and African.  Unfortunately, the difference in price when it comes to jewelry, shoes and nice clothing is pretty much negligible, so I didn’t make any big purchases.  But before heading back to the hotel, my Dad and I stopped by one of the largest grocery store chains in all of South Africa, called Pick N Pay.  My Dad bought me some instant coffee, an ice cream bar and an Aero bar.  If you’re an American, chances are you’ve never had an Aero bar.  By Nestle, it’s a Canadian chocolate bar apparently sold here in South Africa and it is to die for…Americans: go online, order them, get them shipped to your house and try a little piece of heaven :).  Anyways…the Nestle instant coffee has made me a team favorite of my teammates and coaches, they can’t get enough!

Today on the way home from practice, our coach had some bad news.  Last night at around 3AM Mr. & Mrs. Higgins were poached…the Higgins were the rhinos from our safari last week.  South Africa is known for relentless poachers and they will do just about anything to get their hands on rhino horns.  Apparently the rhinos were sedated with morphine, their horns were removed and they are struggling to stay alive.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Higgins is pregnant; so hopefully they make a full recovery without their horns.  Little do the poachers know, a rhino’s horns are made up of keratin, the same proteins and what not that are in human fingernails and hair…it is sad that in a protected “sanctuary”, the animals’ lives are still in danger…I can’t even imagine what it is like for these poor animals out in the wild. 
Mr. and Mrs. Higgins
After our morning batting practice, our team is more than prepared for tonight’s game against South
Africa.  Now time for a nap!



Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Haka!

Hey Everyone!

The time has flown by…I can’t believe we only have a week left here in beautiful South Africa.  We are now 3-1 and have won three consecutive games against Botswana, Puerto Rico and New Zealand.  The Puerto Rico game was awesome.  Usually a close and intense game, we blew them out of the water, mercy-ing them 7-0.  The game finished in the most awesome way possible…with two runners on, two outs, and the score 4-0 in the fifth inning; Shannon Davidson hit the first out of the park homerun of the tournament!  A walk-off…mercy-ing a team has never felt so good. 

Today’s game was against New Zealand.  I want to say that it was the first time I had ever played against New Zealand in international play…but we already didn’t like them.  We share our floor of the hotel with the “Kiwis” (apparently that’s what they are called)…and they are so rude!  They woke up in the morning slamming all their doors, making prank phone calls to our rooms, and messing with the elevators on our way down to the field.  As our bus pulled into the parking lot at the field, we parked next to their bus…and looked over to see a Kiwi flipping us the bird.  After our warm up and team introductions, the New Zealand team did their “Haka”.  This wasn’t like any “Haka” I had ever seen.  Before football games at school, I usually see all the poly boys getting together in a circle, led by a single guy.  This was waaaayyyy different.  The entire team lined up in two lines, about ten yards away from us.  They had an entire choreographed stomp-the-yard piece with their eyes were literally bulging out of their heads…it was insane. (Here's a link to a video of the NZ haka before their USA game, courtesy of ASA Softball http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw5TP6BFgjI !)

The game started out slow, after three innings we fell behind by a run.  Fortunately, that’s all they would get.  We finished the game strong offensively, scoring seven runs on eleven hits.  I was 2-4 with two singles and a stolen base.  The highlight of the game was definitely Jenny Gilbert’s grand slam, putting us up by six in the sixth inning.  By the end of the game, the energy the kiwi’s Haka had brought them was pretty much gone, and we won the game with all the momentum and energy. 

Tomorrow’s game is against South Africa!  Judging by the turnout the American’s received at their game against the host country today…it should be insane! Our game is at 7:30 at night on the big stadium field, so it should be a full house :)

Love the kids here!

Thank you all for following! You can get the game summaries at www.softball.ca!