Patrick Murphy has been around. Alabama’s softball coach has traveled to Canada, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, the former Czech Republic, Columbia and Venezuela.
He will add Japan to the list starting Thursday, when the Crimson Tide’s plane touches down for an overseas trip to play four exhibition games and experience a different culture on a 10-day tour.
“I’ve never been overseas before,” outfielder Merris Schroder said. “I’m really excited to get there.
“I know we’re doing a lot of cool historical stuff. We’re getting to go see a lot of cool things.”
Alabama is taking nearly the entire team, including several of last year’s seniors. All but one incoming freshman will travel – infielder Skylar Wallace had obligations to a summer travel team. Pitcher Courtney Gettins, who will be a senior next spring, is playing with the New Zealand national team, so she will actually play against UA. Sarah Cornell, a transfer pitcher from Hofstra, was not able to enroll in time to make the trip.
The Crimson Tide has been practicing twice a day in addition to doing weightlifting and running for more than a week. The newcomers are getting to mix with returning players.
“It’s been a huge bonus for everybody,” Murpy said. “That’s been invaluable to everyone.”
Freshman Montana Fouts, a 6-foot-2 pitcher who won national high school player of the year honors from USA Today and MaxPreps, has benefitted from the early start.
“This is the first time you get to be around everybody,” she said. “I think that means a lot getting to come in as a freshman and they get to take us on this trip.
“They’re all really welcoming, all the coaches and players. They’re making it an easy transition being away from home.”
Alabama will play a doubleheader against New Zealand on Friday and another against Great Britain on Sunday. Many national teams are in Japan preparing for the World Championship, which is being held in Tokyo.
The team will also tour Hiroshima, go on shopping trips, ride the bullet train, visit sites including a Buddhist temple and spend some time in downtown Tokyo.
“I’m expecting a lot of fish and rice and stuff,” Schroder said. “That will be interesting because I don’t eat a lot of raw fish. I’m excited about getting to try some new things and experience a new culture.”
Players will also get to see the U.S. and New Zealand teams in action in the World Championship, which will be held in stadiums that will host the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Murphy took a previous team to the Netherlands.
“The response from the players and everybody on the trip was just awesome,” he said. “I said I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
The team raised money to cover the estimated $140,000 cost. The travel party of 32 includes players, coaching staff and key support personnel.
“Our booster club really came through big-time,” Murphy said. “So many people helped us.
“Last time we took nobody extra. It was 21 people. And we weren’t able to take the (incoming) freshmen last time, and they’re going to be able to go. We wanted this to be a reward trip.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.