Alana Vawter has been putting in the miles lately. The NFCA All-American softball pitcher recently transferred to South Carolina from Stanford, and before she suits up for the garnet and back, she had the opportunity to wear the red, white, and blue as a member of USA Softball, which played in the Japan All-Star Series last month in Iwakuni, Japan.
“It was a dream come true in so many ways,” said Vawter, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, who was part of the 16-player squad and one of nine making her USA Softball debut in the three-game series, for which the Japanese team won two of three. “It’s a dream as a young kid to represent your country and wear USA on your chest. Obviously, that dream was satisfied but there were so many other dreams I didn’t know I had, like playing with the greatest group of girls.
“Just seeing Japan as a country and experiencing the culture was unreal. The people in Japan are so into their softball! They know the sport, and they cared so much about us as people. The hospitality was so great. We stayed in the same hotel as the Japanese National team for each game. The night before the last game, we had the chance to speak with one of their star players who could speak a little bit of English, so we could pick her brain about different things. She had the utmost respect for us, and we thought she was amazing! In the end, it’s about growing the game, so hopefully we did our job.”
Vawter hopes this experience will help her strengthen her own game.
“I’ve heard people say that once you play on an international stage, everything else can seem a little smaller,” Vawter said. “That’s sort of comforting for me. When I can have that mentality that I’ve played in front of 12,000 people in Japan in a stadium that holds 50,000 people, nothing will seem too crazy after that.”
Although it was her first experience with USA Softball, this wasn’t Vawter’s first venture overseas.
“I had an opportunity a couple of months ago with my civics engagement group at Stanford to go to South Africa and teach young kids sports there,” Vawter said. “Some of these kids didn’t know what softball was, but just seeing them laugh at each other when they hit a pop fly with the tennis ball or see it take a bad hop on the grass was so great. Every day, I always think that this sport matters so much, but at the end of the day, it’s one of those games. You want to do it so you can have fun and enjoy it.”