The outfielders hadn’t ever slid on a glove or picked up a bat before the start of the softball season.
They hadn’t ever even seen a softball game, let alone approach home plate or catch a fly ball.
In 2017, they’re starting at Crothersville High School on the varsity squad.
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Jule Elsner, Nina Jaworek and Hanna Wyra — all German exchange students — decided to give softball a try while staying in the United States and attending Crothersville.
Elsner is from Hamburg, while Jaworek and Wyra hail from Berlin.
“They kind of knew the concept of the game, but as far as playing a certain position they didn’t have a clue,” Tigers coach Brian Huey said. “They’ve played just about every sport they have.”
With the new players, Huey’s teaching the athletes the little things that translate to solid softball.
“They’ve caught on pretty well,” Huey said. “We’ve taught them how to play at just about every position. It has been mostly the basics. Learning how to catch and throw the ball correctly are big.
“It doesn’t look like it as far as the scoreboard or record goes, but there has been improvement from the first day.”
Elsner and Wyra both also are competing in track this spring for the Tigers.
Both said that while it’s difficult to balance a schedule with athletics and academics, it feels rewarding at day’s end.
“I had never played softball,” Elsner said. “It has been really fun. I didn’t know any of the rules. I didn’t really expect to be playing. I thought I was only going to be just doing track. They didn’t have enough players so I thought that I would try it.”
Crothersville has 11 players listed on the roster, so the first-year players have been crucial to games.
The Tigers have been forced to forfeit and reschedule some games this season due to low numbers.
Wyra, who was also a member of the basketball and cross-country teams, said that the school spirit in the U.S. is different than Germany.
“It’s different than in Germany, you have practice every day after school,” Wyra said. “It’s fun because it gives you something to do — competing against other schools is really fun.
“I like the school spirit. We have a mascot and everything is really cool.”
In Germany, the schools don’t offer the same types of athletic programs as they do in the U.S.
“I’ve been to the U.S. before in a student exchange for three weeks in Boston,” Elsner said. ” It’s really cool that the school has sports, because our schools in Germany don’t offer sports. We only have P.E. classes. We have to do sports and clubs in our counties.”
For Jaworek, she saw softball as an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“It’s a once in a lifetime chance to play sports like this for me,” Jaworek said. “We don’t have many things like this back home in Germany. I’m going to miss the team. I like hanging out with my teammates, talking and practicing.”
While they don’t know if they will get a chance to play softball again, all three said they hope to one day take the diamond in their homeland.
“It’s not really a common sport,” Elsner said. “I don’t know if there are any clubs, but I will look for them because it’s a lot of fun to play.”