As the calendar turned toward the month of May, New Braunfels senior Catie Lerma prepared to say goodbye to the sport of softball.
Lerma, a three-year letter winner for the Lady Unicorns, had already decided she would make academics her sole focus at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in hopes of landing a spot in a premier medical school. It was the right choice for Lerma, but that didn’t make it any easier to step away from the diamond.
“I remember during senior night I cried so much,” Lerma said. “It was so emotional for me, and I was like, ‘OK, this isn’t my last game — I’ve still got time.’ I cried as well when we made playoffs, and when we were done with high school softball I also cried for that.”
Upon graduation, Lerma still had a few contests remaining with her select team, Next Generation, and she made the most of her final opportunity from the plate.
“It was bases loaded and I hit a triple and we won that game,” she said. “That was my last select softball game.”
But instead of packing up and preparing for the move to the East Coast, Lerma has been given one last chance to shine as an athlete. After attending Headfirst Honor Roll Camp in Florida, she learned of a travel organization — America’s Team — that is sending groups all over the world to try and use sports as a vehicle to learn about other countries and their unique cultures.
This summer alone, America’s Team is taking homegrown all-star squads to Spain, Germany, Italy, England, Australia, Holland and the Dominican Republic.
At first, though, Lerma remained skeptical.
“At first, I kind of thought it was a joke, because it explained the Australia trip and what America’s Team really is,” Lerma said. “I thought it was unreal.”
After some further research, Lerma began to warm up to the idea. In addition to competing against various teams from Australia, the American all-stars will get a chance to explore the country’s vast landscape and take part in numerous activities during their visit, which began Friday and lasts through July 22.
“Three different teams of girls are going,” Lerma said. “Throughout our whole trip there, they’ve scheduled different events and tours around Sydney and Brisbane for us to go on. Surfing lessons, we get to go do that, and also meet some wildlife in the area. Surfing was really exciting for me because that’s been a dream for me. I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf.
“We get to play games against the local teams there, so we have three full days of softball. I’ve never played softball out of the country before, so I’m really excited to see the competition.”
Lerma said the opportunity to represent her country is a huge honor. However, she did admit that the journey home may stir up even more emotions.
“I’m excited to represent my high school coaches, my select coaches and everyone who got me to this point in my softball career,” Lerma said. “I feel like it’s all really going to hit me when I’m coming back from Australia.”