By BOB WOOD
Australia has one of the world’s top Olympic softball teams. It has produced over 50 current major and minor league baseball players.
Sports, in general, and fastpitch, in particular, are passions Down Under. And that’s where local standout Ashley Carter gets to play softball next summer.
Back in September, the Hood River Valley High School senior attended a Coast to Coast Softball tryout at Western Oregon University. She and 10 other girls from Oregon were competing to be chosen as one of 39 players from around the country to represent the United States in either Australia or Hawaii.
But Carter had to do a lot more than sign up. She had to perform.
The tryouts were a series of two- to three-hour skill-testing activities, and Carter explained that it wasn’t easy. The first part of the tryout was a running test, in which each girl had to run the 60-yard dash twice.
“I was the fastest,” Carter said. “The coach said I was faster than most of the boys, too. Then, after we ran, we had to take grounders, so I went to third base,” she said.
Carter has played varsity infield for HRV since her sophomore year, earning all-conference honors in each of the past two seasons. But her high-school accomplishments didn’t make her overconfident.
“When I got there, I saw that I had to do my best,” she said. “I didn’t expect to make the team, because I knew they were holding tryouts in all 50 states.
“But,” she said, “after I saw the other girls try out, I figured that I might have a chance.”
Carter is one of 13 girls representing the United States in the Australian tournament from June 29-July 12, 2004. And although she tried out at third base, she may end up playing anywhere on the field.
During the team’s time in Australia, they will play between 10 and 14 games, receive some of the best coaching available, and see some of the world’s most amazing sights (including Sydney Harbor, the Sydney Opera House, and the site of the 2000 Olympic Games).
Coast-to-Coast says each of the girls selected “will be provided with the coaching and competitive opportunities that will help them achieve their dream of playing at the collegiate or national level.”
Meanwhile, Carter hopes the experience will help her grow as both a player and as a person.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said.