Sports

Exchange trip an eye-opener for Olympic's Pedroza

This was not the China that Sarah Pedroza expected to see.

“I didn’t see any people in rice fields wearing brimmed hats,” said the Olympic High junior. “Everybody lived in tall rises, like one on top of another. There were no houses. That was awful different.”

Pedroza was part of a state fastpitch team that the Washington Cultural Exchange program sent to Hong Kong and China from Dec. 26-Jan. 4.

She said Hong Kong “was like a busy Seattle,” and the China she saw was not the one romanticized in old movies.

“Everyone had the best digital cameras and the best cell phones,” Pedroza said. “Their cell phones were so small and all were voice activated. If you didn’t have one, you weren’t up to date.”

Pedroza, who financed the trip herself, partially by lining up sponsors, said the trip was worth the $2,195 cost.

Pedroza, a catcher with a dream of earning an NCAA Division I scholarship next year, said the competition wasn’t especially strong, but that’s not what this trip was all about.

“Seeing another country is like seeing another world,” she said. “It was fun to learn about the Chinese people, to learn about their religion and see their temples. It’s quite different from what we think it is. The air in China is dirtier than what we breathe.”

After academics, the finely-tuned Pedroza mostly breathes fastpitch softball.

She plays for the Snohomish Sidewinders, a U-18 girls’ select team coached by Bremerton’s Dick Thompson. When Thompson left the Diamond Dusters, an organization he founded, Pedroza and several other Kitsap-based athletes followed.

“It’s a different name, but it’s still the same team,” said Pedroza, who admits there was bad blood at times between the Dusters’ two U-16 teams a year ago.

“We’re, like, committed,” Pedroza said. “Me, (CK’s) Sheena (Stangler), (Olympic’s) Lauren (Haas) ... we’re like really committed. We want to go out to win. We’re out there to take it. We don’t want to be part of a team that slacks off.”

The summer team is more important than high school-fastpitch, said Pedroza.

“As long as we beat CK, that’s all I care about,” she said, noting that Central Kitsap and Diamond Dusters’ coach Bruce Welling had formally filed a complaint with the Central Kitsap School District, saying her father, Bob Pedroza, Thompson and Danny Haas — Olympic High assistants — were coaching illegally during the offseason.

Pedroza said her old Diamond Duster pins came in handy when the U.S. athletes, all from Washington State, exchanged gifts with players from Hong Kong and China.

“I gave them the rest of my Diamond Duster pins,” she said. “I wasn’t going to use them. We exchanged Sasaki t-shirts, American flags, pins, gum, a lot of stuff like that.”

Thompson thinks Pedroza has what it takes to play at a high collegiate-level.

“She has the intensity for the game and desire,” he said. “She’s very quick behind the plate with a quick release. She’s from a great family that’s been involved in softball a long time. She understands the game very well.”

She’s not afraid to work at it. “Academics come first, but I try to lift every day,” she said. And she visits the Batters Box indoor facility in downtown Bremerton regularly to hit during the winter months.

She’s not imposing physically, but Thompson said the 5-foot-4 Pedroza “is a power hitter.”

“I’ve got really strong legs,” she said. “I’ve got a pretty toned body. I’m not like crack-skinny. I’ve just got a lot of natural muscle in my body.”

Pedroza was 11-for-17 during the six-game swing through Hong Kong and China. The state team won all six games, beating Guangzhou, China’s national junior champions, 6-0 and 5-3.

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