A Week With the National Team: Molly Johnson Blog
June 15, 2009
Chula Vista, Calif - Rising UK senior shortstop Molly Johnson was one of 40 players across the country invited to the USA Softball National Team Camp from June 8-12. Johnson was gracious enough to chronicle her experience and provide pictures for UKathletics.com as she took the field along side of USA Softball legends, collegiate stars and junior team members. This season Johnson led the Wildcats to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Johnson was named the school's first All-American while earning first-team All-SEC honors and re-writing the UK record books.
Hey Cat Fans!!
So, today (June 8) I arrived at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. I was really nervous getting off of the plane mostly because I didn't know what to expect and I didn't know many who would be attending. Although I am confident that nearly everyone else felt the same way. I made my way down to the baggage claim and immediately ran into other softball players which eased my nerves a little, however, I am pretty shy when I first meet people so I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone. I felt like a kid on the first day at a new school. We all made the journey to the shuttle pick-up where we ended up waiting about a half hour for the shuttle to arrive so it was a good chance for the seven of us to mingle. When the shuttle finally arrived, we piled our bags in the back and started the 20-minute trek to the training center.
When we arrived at the facility, we immediately checked in and got our rooming list. You could tell who the rookies were and how nervous we all were because we had trouble finding our rooms, and there are only four buildings of dorms. Good start don't you think? Fortunately for me, in our attempt to find our rooms I ran into my roommate who was also in search of our building. Her name is Amber Patton and she played at DePaul. FINALLY we found our room, the farthest from the cafeteria, and another one of our roommates was already there. The rooms have two separate bedrooms with a common living area. Amber and I are rooming with two players from UCLA. We didn't have much time to relax because we had a meeting at 7 p.m. so we went to dinner, got our apparel and then headed over to the educational building.
The meeting was long, but they introduced everyone who was at camp including the coaches and the committee. Too many names to remember! They also discussed what would be happening this week as far as scheduling and how they will be selecting two teams for the summer.
They already had us divided into two teams. My Team (RED): Megan Langenfeld (UCLA `10), Vicki Galindo (Team USA member since 2004) , Ashley Charters (Washington `09), Andrea Duran (Team USA member since 2006), Jenae Leles (Arizona '09), K'lee Arredondo (Arizona '10) , Caitlin Lowe (Team USA member since 2006), Brittany Rogers (Alabama '09), Katie Schroeder (UCLA '11), Lindsay Schutzler (Tennessee '07), Ashley Hansen (Team USA Junior team member), Chelsea Bramlett (Mississippi State '10), Lauren Lappin (Team USA member since 2004), Melissa Roth (Louisville '10) and Jennie Finch (Team USA member since 2001).
It has been a long day and it is a little after 2 a.m. Lexington time and I am exhausted! I will continue to provide updates every day I am here.
Tuesday, June 9th
It was an early wake-up call this morning. We grabbed a quick breakfast about 6:45 a.m. before heading up to the field. Waiting for us at the field was the strength and conditioning coach to take us through our warm-up. After getting warmed up we split into our respective teams. Today was Red vs. Blue to begin our testing. The testing consisted of broad jumps, grip strength, 5-10-5 shuttle time. We were also tested on our speed from home to first base and around the bases. Following the testing we began drill work at our positions. They designated one position for us and we could choose to work out at another if we wanted. Drills lasted the rest of the morning leading us into lunch. After lunch we began our scrimmages and will only be scrimmaging from here on out. My team (Red) is loaded with veterans. Of the nine returners at camp my team had five of them, and the pitchers fly solo so only six veterans were divided amongst the teams. It was exciting to have Jennie Finch, Andrea Duran, Vicki Galindo, Caitlin Lowe and Lauren Lappin on our team. I never thought I would have the chance to play with these legends, but it is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The scrimmages are eight innings long and each team bats four hitters per inning. Each player faces the pitcher twice. Every inning starts where the last one ended. Yes, it does sound confusing but the format isn't what's hard. What is tough is trying to remember how many outs each team starts the inning with. In today's scrimmages my team hit off Jennie Finch and Monica Abbott (Team USA member since 2005) and played defense with Alicia Hollowell (Team USA member since 2004) and Cat Osterman (Team USA member since 2002). I also got to play defense with Jennie Finch. Let me tell you, it was AWESOME making throws over to a 6-foot-1 first baseman. (So, Sam DeMartine do you think you could grow a little bit? Just kidding!) After the games we had to make ourselves look presentable because we had to have our head shot taken! Pictures were followed by dinner. The food is pretty good and it is different every night ... although I think we all look forward to the dessert the most. Tonight we had a little bit of down time to just relax and hang out.
It has been another long day and I am ready for bed! Another early morning waits.
Wednesday, June 10th
Yet another early morning with a quick breakfast before starting practice. We all woke up this morning sore as can be and feeling like we just completed the first week of fall workouts! We haven't even done any lifting or serious running, so the training room cold tub has been busy.
We played one game before lunch and then two more after lunch. We got to hit off of Kenzie Fowler (Arizona `13), Angela Tincher (who threw a no hitter against Team USA last year as a senior at Virginia Tech) and Brandice Balschmiter (UMass '09). Balschmiter throws some serious heat! She topped off at 73 mph today. That is the equivalent of a 103 mph fastball in baseball.
--Shout out to UKAA's Cat Scratches blogger Eric Lindsey! You had the opportunity to hit off of UK's Chanda Bell this past season and we all remember the outcome of that! : ) Now, think about this. Chanda stands at 5-foot-9 and throws between 63-64 mph consistently with movement. Balschmiter is 6-foot-1 and hits over 70 mph on a regular basis. With her height and stride, by the time she releases, it is on top of you and then it's coming at 73 mph. How do feel your chances are against Balschmiter? Or any other pitcher there, and trust me no pitcher was the same or hardly even similar.
Alright back to the day. To all you fans who follow the SEC, I had the opportunity to play defense behind Stacey Nelson (Florida '09) today. She is a tremendous athlete and very funny- when she isn't on the mound. She is always smiling and probably doing hand stands or cartwheels somewhere wearing her tube socks. (Coach Lawson I think I would get along really well with her!) On another note, tonight we had a meeting regarding the USADA drug testing. That is some serious stuff and you better have your life planned out to the hour for the next three months.
I think that is enough for the day. Good night from California!
Thursday, June 11th
Today's morning was the exact same routine as the past couple days. I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed for the field. Every morning we are greeted at the field by the strength and conditioning coach who takes us through our warm-up. The cool thing about our warm-ups is they have been different every day. I think the routine change has helped our soreness because today we are not as sore as yesterday, and hopefully we feel even better tomorrow. We have also reached the half-way point of the camp. We have managed to maintain the same energy and enthusiasm as the first day despite our soreness and exhaustion. Before the game, Team USA's Coach (Jay) Miller gathered both teams at home plate. We were ready to break it down and start a dance off, but Coach informed us that they were changing the format of the scrimmages. Now instead of eight innings we would only be playing four. We were asked if we had any objections to that and we definitely did not! It was a welcomed changed considering our bodies seemed to be rebelling against us. The only downfall was that we would only get one at-bat off each pitcher instead of two at-bats like we had been getting.
With shortened games, that left us with some free time. Not only did we get a bigger break for lunch, but we were finished with our afternoon games by 3 p.m. and we did not have any meetings tonight. So, they arranged for some shuttles to take people to the mall or the movies if they wanted. I opted to go to dinner with one of my friends at camp and her mom. We had a great dinner and we stopped for frozen yogurt on our way back. The frozen yogurt place was pretty cool. They had around 20 different flavors and it was all self-serve with a toppings bar. I, however, stuck to just the yogurt. I tried both strawberry and pineapple. The pineapple was AMAZING!!! It is good they don't have that in Lexington or I might get addicted to it. With frozen yogurt in hand, we headed back to the dorms to catch the Lakers-Magic game where Derek Fisher nailed the three in overtime.
Tomorrow we have two early games. We have to be ready to go by 7 a.m., so that doesn't leave much time for breakfast. Luckily, I grabbed some breakfast bars in the cafeteria today. Tomorrow is our last day here. It is our last chance to make any sort of impression before we leave. GOOD NIGHT!
Friday, June 12th
We had an early warm-up this morning before out last two games. As much fun as this week has been with all the softball, everyone was relieved to be done because 10 games (modified or not) in four days is a lot of softball and it wears you down. We were all exhausted and sore, but we never lost the fire and enthusiasm because we love softball. And we had the ultimate opportunity to play with the best in the world! We all felt pretty special because we were 40 players selected of the tens of thousands in the country (which is more selective than the MLB except we don't make the big bucks!). The food was pretty good too.
Overall the week was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Everyone here was really cool and I got to meet and play with a wide variety of personalities. Most are fierce opponents of mine on the field during the UK season, but for one week we were given the opportunity of a lifetime to be teammates and hopefully represent the RED, WHITE and BLUE together.
Looking back on the week, I am very fortunate to have had this opportunity. I met a lot of great people and I was able to play with some Olympians. I did a little scouting of our opponents for next season. I saw Stacey Nelson do cartwheels beyond the right field fence and learned the reason for her hair flip before each pitch. Had we been anywhere else but the field our teams would have started an intense dance off, led by Natasha Watley (Team USA member since 2002). I sat through a drug meeting where we watched an animated film about the testing procedure (enough said). There was never a dull moment this week and I think we all left with sore abdominals!