Senior softball sensation

The opportunities for female athletes to pursue their career after college is becoming easier as women’s sports are gaining popularity across the globe. For Gina Calabrese, a senior softball player at St. John’s University and native of Long Beach, NY, these opportunities have recently hit home.

Calabrese never thought that a career in softball was possible when she got involved in the sport in fifth grade for a Catholic Youth Organization team. “I played because it was fun and the game interested me,” Calabrese said.

Deciding to further her career at St. John’s was an easy choice. The good reputation of the school and the great attitudes of the people were what she said aided in her decision. “I wanted to live away at school but still be close to home,” Calabrese said. “St. John’s was the obvious choice to fulfill all of my needs.”

At St. John’s, Calabrese has set virtually ever pitching record in the program’s history. She has broken the single season school records for strikeouts (183), innings pitched (208.2), complete games (24), wins (18), total appearances (37) and total starts (28). Last season she recorded six shutouts and a 1.71 ERA and is the career leader in strikeouts with 416.

She would not be prepared for the shocking event that would occur at the beginning of this year. Calabrese was informed by one of her coaches that a man had called inquiring about her plans for after college. She would find out that he was the coach of the Italian National Softball Team and wanted her to tryout for the team.

“I was completely shocked and thought it was a mistake,” Calabrese said. “I was sure that he must have been calling for someone else and the message had gotten mixed up.”

With Calabrese’s Italian heritage, she made a perfect candidate for the Italian National Team and would be able to receive dual citizenship. The decision to go to Italy would be a hard one for Calabrese.

She would be required to leave the U.S. a week after graduation in May and spend almost four months in Lucca, which is located in the Province of Tuscany in Northern Italy. After competing in a league for the summer that would run into October, selections would be made by the coach. There are 23 spots available on the team and over 200 women competing for these positions.

If Calabrese were to be selected as a member of the team, she would have to spend six months of each year in Italy training until the Olympics in 2004 that will be held in Athens. This whole ordeal would mean leaving her family and friends for the summer and then possibly for six months of each year.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to leave my family for so long because we are all really close,” Calabrese said. “I knew that this would be the opportunity of a lifetime, though.”

Calabrese made her decision to go to Italy knowing that it would be a hard adjustment. “I just couldn’t pass up a chance like this,” Calabrese said. “All of my friends and family even told me that I should go.”

Calabrese’s mind is set on the season right now hoping to improve the teams record above 10-15. She said that the Red Storm has gotten off to a slow start, but feels that their hard work will help them improve as the season goes on.

As for the future of her own career, Calabrese will be moving on to bigger and better things after college. With a little luck and hard work, you might be seeing her at the Olympic games in 2004 in Athens.