July 30, 2009
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
Kelsey Stander, a rising junior on the Indiana softball team, recently helped the USA Softball team to a gold medal at the 2009 Maccabiah Games in Israel. The team was 8-0 during the tournament and she led the United States team in runs, hits and stolen bases.
IUHoosiers.com was able to talk to Stander about her experience in Israel and this is what she had to say:
What kind of tryouts did you have to go through to get on the team?
"In December of 2008, I flew to Chicago for the tryout with roughly 150 girls trying out for the team and I was fortunate enough to be selected for the team."
Did you know anyone else on the team?
"My sister was also on the team, which was great. It was the first time since high school that she and I played together and it was only the second time ever that we got a chance to play together. I also knew one other girl on the team because she had played at Washington University in St. Louis with my sister."
How got you interested in being on the team?
"My sister encouraged me to tryout. She played in the Pan-American Maccabi games in Argentina in 2007 and loved it and that sparked my interest. The fact that these were the World Maccabi games and that they took place in Israel, a place I have never been, was also a huge proponent in my decision to tryout and be on the team."
What was it like to represent your country while playing softball?
"Playing for your country is an incredible honor. There were 9,000 total athletes and 60 different countries all competing with such pride for where they came from. It's a great feeling to be a part of something like that. Walking into opening ceremonies and hearing thousands and thousands of people cheering just because I am on the USA team is an indescribable feeling. It made me not only want to do well for my team but for my country."
What was your favorite part of the trip?
Was the game played any differently over there?
"It is hard to pick one single thing as my favorite part because I did so much and saw so much while I was there. Winning the gold medal was obviously a highlight as well as getting a chance to play with my sister again."
"The softball was not as competitive over there as it is in the United States. Because they are not as familiar with the sport of softball, they don't have the same experiences that college players in the U.S. do. We played the majority of our games on an all grass field - literally there was no dirt and we practiced in random fields of grass or parks. Occasionally we practiced at a baseball field the size of a softball field that, in Israel, is a coveted facility. The only actual softball field in all of Israel was located in the Baptist Village in the city Petach Tikva. Baptist missionaries run a non-profit camp year round for kids of all ages that play all different sports. Baseball and softball is almost unheard of in Israel and most people have no idea what softball is and somewhat understand the game of baseball so that part of it was a bit of a learning experience."
Did you get a chance to go sight-seeing?
"I was in Israel from July 2 until July 24. The first week I was there was called pre-camp. Pre-camp consisted of practicing for all the USA teams in the morning and then taking the USA teams on tours from noon until 11 or 12 at night. We went to Yad Vashem, which is the holocaust museum in Israel. We went to the Western Wall, which is the last standing wall of the holy temple in Jerusalem. We went to the Dead Sea, which is the lowest point on earth and where the salt concentration in the ocean is so great that you can literally float on top of the water. It's almost impossible to stand because the water pushes you to the top. We went to the Sea of Galilee and to Latroon, which is the military memorial in Israel. We went to Masada, which is a city at the top of a mountain in the middle of the Judean desert and we went Caesarea, which was the first port city in Israel and was created by Herod the Great a roman emperor who also created Masada. I saw the security wall that surrounds Israel's boarder; we went to the Old City and the City of David in Jerusalem. We walked through water tunnels created 2,000 years ago by King David while we were in the City of David."