Playing Abroad by Kim Souza

One week after graduating from UW, I left for Germany to play professional softball for the Haar Disciples, which is located in the outskirts of Munich. Former UW teammate, Hailey Bator also came to Munich to play for the Disciples. I wasn’t sure what to expect before going there, but I knew I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to spend four months in Europe.

After a twelve-hour flight from Seattle to Munich, we were met at the airport by our coach and director of the team in our team vehicle, which is a bright yellow van that has Disciples across both sides of it. From the airport, we went directly to the house of my host family. I stayed with a teammate and her family in an amazing brand new house.

Two days after arriving, while still recovering from the jet lag, I had my first practice and impressions of the field. Our field was a grass field and we shared the outfield with the baseball team so only one team could be playing games at a time. While here, I coached the younger teams in the organization and played on the First team. We played double headers every Sunday because it was the only day of the week where everyone could be guaranteed to make it to the games because many of my teammates were working or going to school. In this region of Germany, they are very religious so the laws prohibit stores from opening, and everyone to have the day off. For games, we would drive up to four hours one way in the morning, play two games, and drive back. But we can’t forget our tradition of stopping at McDonald’s after the games because it was the only thing open. The league here is a lot different than what I was used to. I was playing with girls who were as young as 16, and the oldest on my team was 30. It didn’t matter your age, if you were good enough to be on the first team then you could play on that team. The German league is split into two regions the South half and the North half. My team was in the south half and we placed first in this region, which qualified us for the playoffs. We ended up finishing the season as the fourth team in Germany, which was great for our team, because last year they didn’t make the playoffs at all.

During one of our off weekends, we were able to travel to a tournament in Prague, Czech Republic. Here, we played a USA team, the German National Team, the Poland National Team, the Czech Republic National Team, and a few other club teams. It was amazing to see the sport of softball bring all these different people together for one common thing. Also, the different countries all speak different languages, but everyone knew English as a common language. At the tournament, there was a homerun derby that each team could enter one player into, and my team voted me to be the one. It was quite a show for the Europeans, as I won the derby with 47 homeruns. While in Prague, we were able to do some sightseeing in Old Prague town seeing the Prague orloj, which is a medieval astronomical clock that was installed in 1410 making it the third oldest astronomical clock in the world, and the oldest one still operating today.

Toward the end of the season, we had a two and a half week break where my mom visited and we were able to do some travelling. I left Munich on a 12-hour bus ride to Paris. It was really amazing to see the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe, and some shopping in one of the fashion capitals of the world. From Paris, we flew to Rome. The best highlight from Rome would have to be seeing the Coliseum. It was amazing to see something so big and built back in 70 AD, when there was no electrical machinery. From Rome, we travelled north by train to Florence. In Florence, I was able to see the Duomo di Firenze, which is an enormous 89,000 sq ft Gothic style church built in 1436. From Florence, we continued north to Venice. Venice was my favorite stop of the trip because it is a city like no other in the world. There were no cars, only pedestrian traffic and I felt like I was lost in a maze walking around this city. Everything was done by boat along the canals. The bus system, the garbage man, the mailman, and even taxis were all done by water. Also, while I was in Europe, I was able to take a midweek trip to Salzburg, Austria, which is the home to the movie, The Sound of Music.

Overall, my experience in Europe was a very great opportunity for me to continue playing the sport I love. I am very thankfully for being able to learn about a different culture and experience the game in a different country.

Thank you for reading!

Kimberlee Souza