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Colusa's Garcia heading to Dominican Republic for softball tour
Sophia Garcia is used to traveling for softball but her skill in the pitcher's circle will take her outside the country for the first time in July.
Garcia was selected to take part in a softball tour in the Dominican Republic from July 8-15 with America's Team.
America's Team takes baseball and softball teams to foreign countries to play against local competition. The organization is a partner with American Council for International Studies, which organizes educational tours, and the athletes spend their down time learning about the country and its culture.
"I'm looking forward to getting the chance to know how other people play softball, how good they are, where I stand as a pitcher and what I need to work on to get to the college level," Garcia said.
Softball is Garcia's first love and she plays nearly year round. During the high school offseason, she plays for the Rocklin Hype Gold 18-under team, which played its final tournament in Huntington Beach last weekend before taking a month off for the holidays.
Garcia enjoys her time on the softball diamond and traveling to tournaments around the country but it isn't always easy.
"I miss out on a lot of stuff too, so it kind of makes me sad, but then when I realize what I'm doing it for it helps me with my character so it's worth it," she said.
Garcia needs to raise $3,600 for the trip by April 9 and will be taking an introduction letter around to businesses in Colusa. Garcia, who lived in Modesto until she was 15, has a tamale fundraiser in Modesto and donation boxes set up at a relative's restaurant in the Bay Area as well.
Pitching became an important part of Garcia's life when she was 9 years old. Her first and only pitching coach is her step-father Manny Martinez, and their bond helped turn Garcia into the player she is today.
"He explains it to me easier and it's fun going out there and practicing. If I had a professional coach, I would have an hour and it would be like you need to go do this and that. With him, we're out there for however long we need to be," she said.
Garcia relies on her devastating curveball and powerful leg drive to stay effective. She lacks the height and speed to blow by hitters, but uses five pitches and remarkable durability to stay ahead of batters deep into games.
By relying on the power in her legs, Garcia stays healthy and remains strong late in games and tournaments.
"It's easier when your legs get tired than your arm, so I don't get injured. I'm not a fast pitcher but I have movement, which I think helps me because I don't have to hurt my shoulder as much. I just make sure I spin the ball," she said.
During her freshman season at Colusa High, Tiffany Friel's quest for the Northern Section strikeout crown forced Garcia into the outfield for the first time. Though the move was frustrating, learning the to play other positions helped make her a more complete ballplayer, she said.
Last season, she pitched every inning of the RedHawks' section championship winning run, which helped put her travel ball experience into perspective, she said.
"During high school I had to pitch every game so I think that helped me want to pitch. I didn't want to pitch every game (in high school) and then go to travel ball and sit on the bench. It made me practice more and put the work in," Garcia said.
The trip isn't just about playing softball, it's a cultural exchange, Garcia's mother Gloria Yrigollen explained.
"I think what's nice about it also is when they go over it's also a tour for them. They take them and show them different sites there and they get to really spend a lot of time with the other kids from the Dominican Republic so that's a great experience," Yrigollen said.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.