For Morningside College softball student-athletes Lexie Stolen (JR/Sioux City, IA) (Sioux City, Iowa), Carson Cameron (JR/Herman, NE) (Herman, Neb.) and Mackenzie Lose(SR/Indianola, IA) (Indianola, Iowa), a mid-June tour of Europe’s boot-shaped country bordering the Mediterranean Sea was about so much more than practicing with fellow standout players from across the country and being involved in four games.
“Gaining friendships was (one of my favorite memories),” Cameron noted. “It wasn’t just about getting to know our teammates, either, but also the Italian club teams we played. After each game, we would gather on the field and just visit … talking about the brand of softball played (in the United States and Italy) and what it was like for the Italian players and ourselves as softball players on and off the field and so on.”
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to teach the children in the kids’ clinics we did,” Lose reflected. “It was awesome to see each of them get so excited about what we were teaching them. It kind of fit for me, as, someday, I might want to coach if the chance presents itself.”
“Obviously, (the players and coaches) all went there to win,” Stolen pointed out. “However, something more came out of it which I think we all understood after the first day or so. It was about having fun and learning a new culture. It’s something you have to do when you travel overseas … understand how things are different from home to where you’re at, take everything in and just see as many sights as you can and learn as much as you can.”
Nestled into a Beyond Sports Tour that featured the U.S. college squad finishing 3-1 against its schedule of local club squads were trips to Rome, Florence, Lake George and across the countryside. Florence proved a big hit for all three Mustangs’ team representatives as did Lake George and the magnificent hotel that sits on its shore, home to travelers such as former President Barack Obama and his family, move star George Clooney and many others.
“(Italian history) was something I came away with a new appreciation for,” Stolen said. “I’ve never been a big history buff, but it was great hearing all of those stories about the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum and the little villages we’d visit (from tour guides).”
“I really enjoyed Florence,” Lose said. “I’ve always been into crafts and things like that from watching the DIY channel, so to see all that is offered (in that area) was great.”
“I’ll never forget the entire experience,” Cameron added. “So many things to do, so many things to learn about someplace new … it was awesome. I’d tell anyone who is thinking about doing this to give it a shot. You never know when you’ll get a chance like this.”
Playing the game they love was far from a footnote, though. They all managed the positions they’ve become accustomed to but also were given chances to try new slots much like gaining a new perspective of a new culture.
“It was really relaxed,” Cameron said. “For a couple of games, we were at our normal spots but then the coaches said ‘OK, have you ever wanted to try something different?’. We all had a lot of fun with that.”
“I got to catch,” Lose happily reflected. “Playing those different spots really made you gain a new respect for the work that a player has to put to excel (in their role).”
“We got a look at many different levels (of Italian softball),” Stolen said. “The first team we faced had players ages 12 to 22 but most were members of national teams. As we progressed through the week, the competition got tougher and tougher … we even faced a 42-year-old pitcher who really brought it in. Softball may not be their national sport, but they do have talent (in some areas).”