Lindsey Long, 14, is an 8th grader at William Henry Harrison (West Lafayette, Indiana) and plays travel ball for BlueWave 14U out of the Chicago area. She was invited to go to Taiwan with an all-star team of travel players from Indiana and during the trip from Feb. 4-13, 2018 things got, well, a bit interesting!
Here’s Lindsey’s account of what happened on and off the field including some experiences she’ll never forget!
My softball journey recently took an interesting turn.
I tried out for and made a team going to a tournament in Puli, Taiwan called the International Women’s Invitational Tournament, where we would represent the United States against teams from Taiwan, China, and Japan. Our team was mostly high school juniors and seniors, and one college graduate, all from competitive travel organizations across Indiana.
I have trained with older players since I began hitting lessons three years ago, so, even though I’m an 8th grader, I was comfortable competing at that level. Our team had two practices on an indoor basketball court at the Indianapolis YMCA before we left; the first time all of us were on the field at the same time was in Taiwan.
Before I left, my parents had challenged me to think more about embracing the honor of representing the United States—as well as the educational and cultural opportunities—than about playing time. Use it, they told me, to experience a new culture, to meet new and interesting people, to travel half a world from home; to manage free time and homework assignments and, finally, to play softball.
Almost 28 hours after leaving Indiana, we arrived at our hotel in Puli, Taiwan. Due to a hotel mix-up, I ended up rooming with my college graduate teammate. As we crashed, none of us expected what was about to happen overnight.
We were jolted awake about two hours after going to sleep because the hotel was shaking and rocking! There had been a reported 6.0 earthquake (later revised to 6.4), which lasted around a minute, though it seemed longer.
Many of us got Emergency Alerts in Chinese on our phones. Our coaches held a team meeting in the hotel lobby at 3 am to explain what had happened: the quake was centered 40 miles away and we were told several apartment buildings and a hotel collapsed and there were a number of people killed, missing and injured.
There were also a number of strong aftershocks over the next few days and, because of this, the Japanese team decided not to come.
This was a lot to process on almost no sleep and 28 hours of international travel. I was glad that I was rooming with my older teammate, as we helped each other stay calm. Neither of us could sleep after the meeting, so we stayed up and talked for several hours and got to know each other better.
At breakfast the next morning, the only Western items available were cereal and fried eggs. The other food included everything from seaweed to fish and shrimp. The various smells were overwhelming!
We played a team from the local university that afternoon. No one really knew what to expect as far as field conditions or the competition. The field was new with a deep red clay colored infield and freshly cut outfield grass. The infield was flat and level and even the batters’ boxes and pitching areas didn’t have any of the wear and dips we tend to see here.
The school was in the mountains, so the view of other mountains and clouds from any spot on the field was amazing. The bathrooms had no stools, just a hole in the floor which we had to squat over to use...someone said it’s an improvement over the disgusting bathrooms at many softball complexes at home!
We expected our opponents to play small ball, but they didn’t. All of them played flawless defense. We also got to encounter some different customs than softball in the United States: bowing to the umpire before each at bat as a sign of respect, being able to choose either the 40 feet or 43 feet mound to pitch from, having no obstruction by the defense with base runners; and having dozens of kids on their hands and knees soaking up water from the infield with sponges and re-lining the field after the third inning.
We streamed the games on Facebook Live so our families could watch back home and, despite the 13-hour time difference, we regularly had 60-70 viewers.
One of the parents took pictures of everything and posted a daily blog on the team’s Facebook page so the families at home could be part of the experience by not only seeing us, but also the pictures of the fields, the sights of the country and all of the food and our various bonding activities.
I embraced my parents’ challenge to take as much away from this experience as possible. I analyzed the opponent’s style of play on offense and defense. I watched how my teammates and opponents played my position—first base—to see if there was anything I could pick up to improve myself there.
Most of all, I prepared and focused on being ready to go into the game when asked, and as a result, I hit the ball hard and played well defensively when I had the chance.
During our trip we did a lot more than play softball and experience earthquakes.
We went to a Buddhist monastery, took a boat ride around Sun Moon Lake, shopped at local markets, got to know a few players from the other teams (using Google translate to communicate), ate new and different foods and got to learn about the customs and life in another culture.
Our buses became more than just transportation, they were where we bonded as a team, including singing along to everything from country music to 80’s music at the top of our lungs!
We left Taiwan as a team going 3-5, but the record didn’t count; what mattered most was I grew as a player and person more so from events off the field.
The time I spent in a supporting role for my teammates will also prepare me for the next level and what I learned and experienced on this wonderful tip will make me a better player, a better teammate, and a better person as I move through my softball journey and beyond.
-- Lindsey Long
Here are some video highlights of Lindsey's hits in Taiwan: