Very few people have an opportunity to represent their country on the field of sports, but Fort Mill's Anna Kimbrell will be doing just that with the 2007-08 Women's United States Baseball National Team.
Kimbrell, a junior pitcher/catcher, made the 25-player team a year ago, but a torn ACL required her to miss the season while rehabbing and getting her knee back in shape. A year later, the national team invited her back.
Kimbrell and her family drove to Jupiter, Fla., to try out. It was a long drive, but much closer than the other two tryout spots in Phoenix and Elizabeth City, N.J.
"I worked very hard to get back here and I am excited to have this opportunity," said Kimbrell. "This weekend should be a lot of fun and I can't wait to play against international competition."
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Kimbrell was scheduled to leave today for Cary, N.C., for the International Friendship Tournament, after competing for the Nation Ford High School swim team Thursday. Cary is the site of the USA baseball training facility.
Since the tournament is a short drive, Kimbrell is hoping for a strong local contingent to support her.
Today is a transition day. Kimbrell will hang out and get to know her team a little better. The team will practice in the afternoon.
The team has a clinic for local youth Saturday morning, teaching basic baseball skills.
The games begin Saturday afternoon with the U.S. facing Japan. Over the weekend, the team plays six games, three each against Japan and Canada.
While officials are hoping for a change, the tournament will not lead to the Olympics for any of the involved countries. The International Olympic Committee has eliminated baseball and softball for 2012, but U.S. coaches are hopeful the sports will return in 2016.
Kimbrell will be 26 by then but right now is concentrating on being a high school student-athlete and competing.
Kimbrell balances sports and schoolwork by completing her homework during lunch and study breaks. Kimbrell is planning on being in a fall baseball league to keep her skills sharp.
Each afternoon the swim team has a two-hour practice. After the pool, Kimbrell finishes up any extra studies, and, if there is time, hits the batting cage.
The busy schedule serves as a reminder of her hard work and perseverance in making the team.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Kimbrell said. "Sometimes it is hard to seek the balance, but it has been a fun time. I have had a lot of support from coaches, parents and friends and am looking forward to the challenges of the competition."