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Overseas Softball Tour Successful For EHS Alum Brooks
After battling through a bout with tendonitis during her freshman season at Sacramento State, Caitlin Brooks had the chance to get in some extra softball this summer. But she went a long way from home to do it.

The 2011 Escalon High grad was nominated to be part of a USAAI, USA Athletes International, tour to Holland to play a series of exhibition games with a topnotch all-American travel team.

"It was so much fun," Brooks said of the trip, which lasted from July 8 through July 16. "We played almost every day; they had us booked to the max."

Games were played in the Robur '58 Apeldoorn Series and in between the competition, team members were able to do some sightseeing and had an opportunity to visit with younger players.

The first day in Amsterdam, they enjoyed a tour of the city by water on a canal cruise, and the following day included a visit to the famous Anne Frank house before they jumped into their first practice.

According to website information, USA Athletes International, Inc. is "a non-profit organization dedicated to giving amateur athletes and coaches the opportunity to participate in international Olympic-style sporting events throughout the world" and also helps them gain cultural knowledge and broaden their educational experience while traveling abroad.

Currently over 900 athletes in seven sports travel to more than 14 countries to play.

Brooks and her American teammates played nine games over a six-day stretch against Dutch and Belgian squads, playing at Orderbos Ballpark.

The series started with formal Opening Ceremonies and the start of competition against some top European teams, with host Robur one of the strongest baseball-softball clubs in the Netherlands.

Players are nominated by coaches for the international experience and serve as unofficial 'ambassadors' of the United States during the tour. Brooks was nominated by her coach at Sacramento State, Cara Hoyt. Another team member, third baseman Riley Price, also made the trip.

"We're going to be roommates this year," Brooks said of the good bonding experience she and Price shared as they traveled to a foreign country together.

Coach Hoyt was also assistant coach for the U.S. team on the tour, which was led by head coach Christina Byrne of San Francisco State University.

There are similar trips to different locations each year through the USAAI program and Brooks has already been asked to participate. Next year's trip is to Aruba and she is considering the possibility of going on tour again.

"I think we lost one or two games," she said of having a successful 'road trip' and winning more games than they lost.

Some of the games were against the Dutch National Team, some against the Holland National Team and it was all good competition, she said.

The weather was often overcast and most days featured a little light rain. Brooks was one of three pitchers on the roster and each got equal time, so each pitched the equivalent of three to four games over the length of the trip.

The Dutch eat a lot of bread, said Brooks, and they also love French fries, which she said seemed to be a staple of everyone's daily menu.

Brooks will be a sophomore at Sac State this year and is studying kinesiology with plans to pursue a career in physical therapy.

"It was a wonderful experience and she made many lifelong friends as her team became very close during the trip," noted Caitlin's mom, Terry Brooks.

Along with players from California, other states represented on the team included Oklahoma and Texas.

Brooks and Price were the two players from Sacramento State, with two others that are attending UOP in Stockton and one from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo also making the trip overseas.

"We're keeping in touch," Brooks said of the other players on the team.

The two Hornets will also likely see their teammates from the touring team during the actual season, as they play both schools.

Brooks will return to school soon and the softball squad will do some fall ball and conditioning, with the season actually starting next February.

Overall, said Brooks, the experience was great and she feels it was beneficial in many ways.

"It's totally different over there, I had to be on my own more and it helped me grow up in a way," she said. "I had the most fun ever."