June 29, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) - Rising senior outfielder Loren Smith of the Florida State softball team made her summer even more enjoyable after receiving word that she was one of 36 players chosen to compete at the U.S. Women's Baseball National Team Trials.
Smith will head to Salt Lake City, Utah, on the University of Utah campus to compete for a spot on the United States Women's Baseball National Team from July 28-Aug. 1. The Land O' Lakes, Fla., native will look to be one of the final 20 members named to the national team and begin training with the squad starting on Aug. 2.
In her first season with FSU in 2012, Smith played in 26 games and started six primarily as an outfielder. She recorded her first home run as a Seminole on Feb. 25 against Marshall, hitting a three-run shot to put FSU ahead for good against the Thundering Herd.
However, as an experienced member of the USA national team, Smith has made her living as a right-handed pitcher. For the last two years the Florida native has been able to compete among the best women's baseball players in the nation, which is something she has cherished.
"It has been the best experience of my life," Smith said on her recent years with USA Baseball. "Especially thinking I was never going to be able to play baseball again when I was younger. I was denied a tryout from my high school baseball team and that's when I switched to softball. I missed the sport so much just because I was a pitcher, and I obviously couldn't be a pitcher in softball because it was so different. So when I found out about the team I was pumped. Then to be able to play baseball at such a high level, there was nothing like it. Wearing USA across your chest and being able to play the sport you love, there is just nothing like it."
Despite being a veteran of the USA program, Smith knows nothing is a sure thing as she looks to compete for a spot on the squad. She recently attended one of the team's regional tryouts held at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., on June 16. Having been in this position before, she believes she can draw on her past experiences in helping her during what should be a rigorous five days of tryouts.
"I would say my past experiences with playing for the national team have shown me how tough it is to make the team," she added. "I know that it is something I am going to have to work hard to do, especially not being able to put in the time year-round because of softball. It can be tough to pick up a baseball and get back into it. It will be extremely competitive in Utah, but I know exactly what I have to work on to get a spot on the final roster."
The national team will train its completed squad from Aug. 2-8, which includes an exhibition against Australia on Aug. 7 at Edmonton, Alberta, at 7:30 p.m. The team's final exhibition comes against Canada on Aug. 8 in the same location and time.
The United States will compete in the International Baseball Federation (IBF) Women's Baseball World Cup that is also held in Edmonton from Aug. 10-19. The U.S. is slated to face the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, Canada, Cuba, Chinese Taipei and Venezuela as it looks to reach the semifinals and finals of the field.
Two years ago, Smith got a chance to play in the IBF World Cup in Venezuela. It was a memory she will forever hold on to because of several intriguing factors including national pride, the atmosphere and the incredible competition.
"Playing in the IBF World Cup was amazing," Smith said. "Just seeing all of the other countries and what talent they have. It was such a great experience listening to our national anthem in another country, being televised, signing for fans after every game - I even signed a baby! We also played a game in front of 16,000 people when we played the Venezuelan team. That was like an energy drink. It was such a cool moment because I just thought how lucky I was to be able to play at such an elite level of baseball with some fantastic people who share the same passion."
Smith admits that the concept of women's baseball is somewhat perplexing in a country that associates females on the softball field. She feels that the USA program is doing its best to help the game grow and senses it becoming more commonplace in the future.
"I do think more people are hearing about it as the years have gone by," Smith added. "There are so many young girls who are playing baseball with the boys right now that are being told every day that they have to switch to softball. I feel that if more girls are finding out about this, it will give them something to play for and dream about doing someday. People still try and correct me saying, "Oh you mean softball" when I try to explain to them I play for the women's national baseball team! I hope that one day it will be something that everyone knows about."
Florida State happens to be well-represented on the list of 36 players invited to the national team trials. Former player Michelle Snyder, who played with Smith on the team last season, is also back to represent her country.
"I met her (Snyder) last summer in the 2011 friendship series before my first semester at FSU, so she gave me some tips and advice before I got to campus," Smith said. "It was neat to know an alumni player and I hope we can continue to share that bond as we chase the gold in the world cup this summer."