Softball: Longmont’s Hali Walters picked up by USAAI national team

  • Courtesy photo

    Hali Walters winds up for a pitch while pitching for the Berthoud Blaze 18U club team.

  • Courtesy photo

    Longmont pitcher Hali Walters poses for a photo with her USA Athletics International Team USA iniform.

of

Expand

LONGMONT — Hali Walters may be the third of three sisters to play varsity softball at Longmont High School. After this weekend, however, she will become the first of her kin to represent the Unites States in international competition.

Selected to the USA Athletes International 18-under team, Walters will leave Saturday to play in the five-day Robur ’58 Softball Tournament in the Netherlands. The chance of a lifetime for most athletes, Walters can say she played for her country after having completed just one season of high school softball.

“The college girls who are on the team say it’s so different to go from wearing their college jerseys to wearing USA on the front,” Walters said. “Not only are you doing something you love, you’re doing it for your country. It’s an honor and it’s going to be awesome.”

The youngest player on the USAAI team, Walters will be a sophomore for the Trojans next season. The young pitcher’s selection by the USAAI, a nonprofit that provides overseas playing opportunities to American athletes, came about through surprising happenstance.

Walters was picked up by the Texas-based American Freedom softball club as pitching help for the FroShow showcase tournament in Phoenix, Ariz., from Sept. 9-11. It was there that USAAI softball coach Dale Lehnhoff saw her play.

When the Walters family returned home to Longmont following the tournament, an email from Lehnhoff awaited Hali Walters in her parents Don and Deanna Walters’ inbox. It was an invitation.

“I am writing you today because I personally watched you play in the TCS Fro-Show Tournament this past weekend in Phoenix and was very impressed with your skills, character and personality,” Lehnhoff said in the email. “Therefore I would like to extend an invitation for you to be a part of a USA Softball Team. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to not only play softball against teams from other countries, but to experience the culture and way of life in another part of the world as well as expand your college resume/profile.”

The USAAI does not hold tryouts and the 14-player 2013 roster, made up of players from eight states, was selected by invite only.

Lehnhoff, who Don Walters chatted with inadvertently in the stands, didn’t see a particularly good game. What he saw, Deanna Walters said, was Hali Walters’ calm demeanor on the mound while her team struggled.

“The girls were having a tough time in that game. They might have been a little jetlagged and dehydrated and they were making some mistakes,” Deanna Walters said. “But since she was little, something we’ve tried to instill in her is to just keep going and do what you can do. She kept her composure and a smile on her face and she never got down on her teammates. That’s what he saw and that why he said he was so impressed with her.”

Walters’ oldest sister Taryn Servold graduated from Longmont High in 2003 and middle sibling Kelsey Walters graduated in 2009. Kelsey Walters played two seasons at Allen Community College in Iola, Kan., and two more at Friends University in Wichita, Kan.

Following her softball pedigree, Walters carried the pitching load as a freshman for the Trojans last season. She led the team, which finished 7-12 and will have yet another new coach next season, with 15 appearances and recorded 52 2/3 innings on the mound.

Though she may be a Trojan, Walters’ jersey will say otherwise next week.

“Hali, she was happy as can be when she got the uniform shipped to her,” Don Walters said. “That’s pretty cool to see that USA on the front.”

The USAAI also provides its players with guided tours around the host destinations and allows them time to explore the countries where they are playing.

In softball terms, traveling alone to play a week of softball with a team of strange girls in a foreign country provides a new competitive experience for Walters. She also expects it will open some doors for her further down the road in her softball career.

“I think it will not only have a different representation for how I play but also give me a chance to get some really good experience,” Hali Walters said. “It’s definitely a blessing to be able to have everyone be so supportive of me going and to help and donate for me to go. It’s nice to see that people believe in me and it gives me a lot of confidence in my ability.”

Walters didn’t expect to ever get an opportunity like this one. She didn’t even know Lehnhoff was watching her play in Arizona.

Good thing she kept her cool.

Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradCochi