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    When it Rains, We Visit "The Rock"

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    For some reason, rain on the West Coast has been a prevalent problem during our pre-conference games this year. It seems like every time we gear up for a tournament across the country, we're hoping that the projected forecast changes in our favor. This weekend was no different. After arriving in Palo Alto, Calif., last Thursday, it proceeded to rain for three days straight, canceling five of our scheduled games and forcing us to play two doubleheaders on Monday and Tuesday instead.

    So what exactly does a Division I softball team do when the rain won't go away? When numerous rain dances and hours of waiting ultimately end in game delays and cancelations? I'll give you four choices:

    A.      Sleep

    B.      Play hacky-sack

    C.      Cry

    D.     Take a team trip to one of the most legendary federal penitentiaries in the world

    If you guessed option 'D,' you're correct! After days and days of disappointing rain-outs, our coaches surprised us with a day-trip to Alcatraz Island, the world-renown prison that has previously housed notorious criminals such as Al "Scarface" Capone and the "Birdman" Robert Stroud. The penitentiary is located on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, known as "The Rock" and is now open for tours all throughout the day.

    I knew that Sunday was going to be a spectacular day when I started off my morning by watching a flock of seagulls assail senior Michelle Batts. Let's be honest, it's not every day that you turn around to see your clean-up hitter running across the crowded streets of San Francisco -- arms flailing and sunglasses crooked -- attempting to keep a fresh bowl of calamari for herself as seagull after seagull takes a dive at the newly purchased meal. I had kindly taken on the role of tour guide since I'd been to San Francisco several times before, but may or may not have 'forgotten' that my favorite little seafood vendor just happened to be located next to a common roost for dozens of hungry seagulls.

    We survived the attack of the bay birds, however, and after a ferry ride that gave us a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco itself, all 22 of us (plus a few family members), landed on Alcatraz Island. The entire tour lasted about two hours, as you weave in and out of the prison guided by an audio recorder and a set of headphones that is given to each visitor. We found ourselves locked in numerous prison cells, standing in the exact corridors where officers had been taken captive years ago, and examining the grates that three men had slipped through in their escape attempt. We even played imaginary softball on the courtyard field overlooking the bay where prisoners were given free time each day! All in all, the experience was incredibly interesting and educational, and I know each one of us was so grateful for the opportunity.

    When we weren't exploring federal prisons, we kept ourselves busy by cheering on the men's basketball team in their NIT win over Boston College and with endless rounds of games like 'Mafia.' Of course, we were also constantly entertained by 'Sheiki's Daily Text,' a joke sent out every day by freshman Amanda Mehrsheikh, and shared many laughs when sophomore Emily Allard 'pied' junior Olivia Zolke's father, Scott, in the face.

    Not to mention the fact that when we visited freshman Sammy Albanese's home for dinner and time with our families, ping-pong battles of epic proportions took place for hours on end. Imagine: 30-to-40 people crammed around a single ping-pong table, cheering and heckling those in the game to the nth degree. There were father/daughter doubles teams like freshman Marisa Bast and her dad, Michael; age-old duos Kate and Caryl Drohan; and of course, crowd-favorites Denise "D-Baby" Baker and her sister, Kimmie "Auntie Boots" Radford, mother and aunt of senior Jessica Smith. Sweat filled the air, the sound of ping-pong balls echoed throughout the house and emotions ran high; but boy, that night was just what we needed.

    The rain might've kept the 'Cats off the field, but it didn't stop us from enjoying the sights of San Francisco, our families and each other. Times like this past spring break allowed for our team to build on an already rock-solid bond as we head into this weekend's Big Ten opener against Michigan.


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