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SOFTBALL
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Softball - Tue, Jul. 11, 2017
Emilee Biondo (Back Row, 3rd from Left) poses with members of Team USA and the Lady Tigers (Aruba).
Emilee Biondo (Back Row, 3rd from Left) poses with members of Team USA and the Lady Tigers (Aruba).

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Former Avila softball player Emilee Biondo recently traveled to Aruba to represent the United States through USA Athletes International (USAAI), an Olathe, Kan. based non-profit organization.

Biondo and twelve other players from across the country joined together to form the USA team, playing six games over a one week span in Aruba, spreading knowledge of the game with other players from all around the world.

"This entire experience was one of the best of my entire life," Biondo said. "It was an absolute honor to represent the United States while playing the sport that I love and have put so much of my life into."

Biondo was contacted by USAAI in December about an opportunity to go overseas and represent her country on the softball field in Aruba, and after ironing out the details, she was ready to be a member of Team USA for a week-long trip that began on June 26th and concluded on July 3rd. In that week, Biondo and her USA teammates went 5-1 over six games, outscoring their opponents by a score of 70-13, though she said the final results of the game meant nothing compared to the relationships she built with her teammates and the opposition.

"I probably won't remember the final scores from these games," Biondo said, "But I will never forget the friendships I was able to make and the amazing people I was fortunate enough to meet from all over the world through the game that I love. From meeting my teammates on the first night in Aruba to all of the time we spent together on and off the field, I feel truly blessed. It's a feeling that I can't really explain but it's a memory that I will carry with me for a lifetime."

In the final game of the week, Biondo and the USA team squared off with Aruba, who was short on players. In order to play the game, Biondo offered to switch sides and play with the Aruban team, filling in at short stop for most of the game.

"Being able to interact with those girls as a teammate was very humbling and really made me respect and appreciate the materials, equipment and knowledge that I had been given throughout my softball career," she said. "One thing that brought us all together was the love for the game that we each carried in our hearts and through our actions."

While Biondo and her teammates were not on the field, they were able to take in the sights and sounds of Aruba, one of four constituent countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Aruba is an island in the Caribbean Sea, located off the northern coast of Venezuela. The team explored the island during the day and then played their games in the evening. The team spent time on the beach, tooks guided tours and went snorkeling, taking in some of the best attractions Aruba had to offer. The team was also able to sail the ocean on a pirate ship.

Biondo said that though she remembers being reluctant to accept the invitation back in December because she had never been outside the country, she is extremely happy she decided to make a bold decision and go for it. She said this trip was the perfect conclusion to a softball career that spanned more than 18 years.

"This experience was a great ending to my career as a softball player," she said. "I now have many new friends that I was able to share my love of softball with and an island full of amazing people that will always hold a special place in my heart."

While Biondo's playing days are now over, the former Eagle still has one year left at Avila as she works to earn her degree.

 

About USAAI:

USAAI has been participating in international competition since 1992. Originally called the Midwest All-Stars, the organization provided overseas playing opportunities to baseball players. The success of that program eventually prompted requests from abroad for other sporting teams to participate. In 1998 the organization incorporated and received its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status (available upon request), changing its name to USA Athletes International. They now support a total of 15 different sports that compete in 25 different countries throughout the world.

For more information about USAAI, click here.