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:
B. Play hacky-sack
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.