Sports

Dream catcher

"Keri McCallum feels like a rookie again.The 1996 South Kitsap High School graduate and four-time All-American at Mississippi State University was one of 32 players named to the 2001 USA softball team two weeks ago.Split into USA Red and USA Blue, this group of players is touring as an unofficial qualifier for selection to the USA Olympic team. While the bulk of the 2000 Olympic team is off promoting a professional league, the current Team USA members - mostly college players and recent college graduates - are barnstorming the west coast and hoping to jostle their way onto the 2004 Olympic team.Though McCallum is one of 32 players on Team USA, she is one of four catchers on the Red and Blue roster.USA Red's Stacey Nuveman - a world-class player from UCLA - is a lock for 2004 (barring an injury), but McCallum will have three years to earn the backup catcher job McCallum, who earned an invitation to the 2000 Olympic Games Trials on Sept. 2, said there are no guarantees since Team USA holds tryouts every year.There's another (tryout) in September, McCallum said. It's a never-ending process until you're on the Olympic team. My goal is to take it day by day and do the best I can each day. Ultimately, I'd like to be on the Olympic team, but who knows what will happen between now and then. It's still three years away.McCallum made a return to the Northwest last weekend when USA Blue and USA Red kicked off its west coast tour in Portland (June 8) and Spokane (June 10).McCallum and her teammates had the dubious task of trying to hit Catherine Osterman, an 18-year-old who graduated from high school two days prior to her national debut.Osterman had everyone's number (14 strikeouts), including McCallum, who struck out three times.McCallum earned a spot at the Olympic Trials fresh off a senior campaign in which she batted .412, including 11 doubles, 11 triples, four home runs and 25 RBI.This year she entered the tryouts after a one-year hiatus from competition.McCallum said sitting on the bench was difficult.I was at all the games and it was tough sitting there and not being able to go in, she said. It's not like I was away from the game. It made me aware of what will happen if I don't stay in shape and don't play.McCallum isn't banking on making the Olympic team in three years.She's already planning for the future.McCallum and her fiance, John Stratton, live in Connecticut, where she plays for the Brakettes, a women' major softball team.She'd like to go to veterinarian school, but she admitted that is a goal she'll have to sit on until 2004.I might do a pro league, but it wasn't the thing for me to do in the past, she said. You couldn't make a living at it and it'd be for the summer only.I'm getting married, though we haven't set a date, and other than that I have to look for a job now that I've graduated.For now, McCallum is concentrating on her summer-long job as one of the national ambassadors of USA softball.She admitted she feels the pressure of playing at the highest level, but no matter what the future holds she will always fall back on Brakettes.As soon as I'm done here this summer, I'll go back and play, she said. I'll play on that team as long as I can. I have a great time up there and (my teammates and I) have pure fun. There's no pressure, no nothing. "

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