Competitive softball is no longer available on the Olympic stage, but two area girls, Altoona Area High School junior Amanda Parrish and Bellwood-Antis High School junior Emily Nagle, will still get an opportunity to compete in the sport on an international level when they participate as members of the North American team in the World Cup of Softball next January in the Netherlands.
"I think it's really exciting,'' Parrish said of the chance to play in the World Cup. "I think it will be an eye-opening experience to play against people from other countries. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.''
Parrish, a shortstop, and Nagle, a centerfielder, will be two of just 10 players on the North American team's roster. They have played together on several softball travel teams over the past five years.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Altoona’s Amanda Parrish and Bellwood-Antis’ Emily Nagle will play softball in the Netherlands next January.
"I was very surprised,'' Nagle said of her World Cup selection. "I never thought I'd be able to fly overseas and visit the Netherlands, let alone play my favorite sport there as well. I think it will be a great experience, and it's a great honor to be chosen.''
Kirt Whiteside of Columbus, Ohio is the general manager of the World Cup event. Whiteside assembles the American teams, and also invites teams from various parts of Europe to compete. While the players from the American team are teenagers 18 years of age and under, the European teams feature adult women in their 20s.
"I started the World Cup 17 years ago when I coached the French national team,'' Whiteside said. "I'm in charge of selecting the American athletes. We need great girls first, and girls who can play softball well second.''
Whiteside's scouting staff of 78 people got a look at the ability of Parrish and Nagle when both were playing in an indoor event in Kent, Ohio this past January.
"It's called the Queen of Diamonds North event,'' Whiteside said. "We had over 2,500 applications from players from Pennsylvania and other northern states, and about 250 of them were picked to participate.''
From that point, only 10 players were chosen for the North American squad's World Cup roster.
"Our American team is pretty good,'' Whiteside said. "We don't usually choose to go over there with a bunch of Bad News Bears-type kids. We have a powerhouse team. We get nominations about playing ability and character from coaches first, then we talk to the families. I've met both these girls and their families. They're pretty special kids.''
As high school players, Parrish and Nagle will be required to be accompanied by at least one parent or guardian on the trip. Parrish's mother, Deb, plans on making the trip, and she hopes that the entire family - which includes father Guy and younger sister Andrea - we be able to go as well. Nagle will be joined by her mother, Rhonda.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her to go out of the country and play at the international level,'' Deb Parrish said of Amanda's World Cup trip. "Since the Olympics no longer has softball, this may be her only opportunity to play softball outside this country.''
Rhonda Nagle is also excited for her daughter, Emily.
"I think it's a great opportunity,'' Rhonda Nagle said. "I'm very proud of her, and everything she has done to get to this level.''
The Parrish and Nagle families plan to hold fund-raisers between now and the end of the year to cover expenses for the trip. One fund-raiser already in the works is a dinner-dance scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 2 at Altoona's Bavarian Hall.