YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — She’s played ball with players older and more experienced than her age level for most of her softball life. Now, Maria Garcia of Seoul American is hoping to take her game to an even higher level – as a walk-on at Arizona State University.

“It’s always been my dream” to play college softball, said Garcia, a four-time All-Korea district infielder who helped Seoul American win its second straight DODEA Korea title, then fifth place at last month’s Far East Tournament, where she earned All-Far East honors.

Garcia played a variety of positions this season, but made her greatest contribution at catcher, longtime Falcons assistant coach LaRoy Slaughter said.

“She’s an impact player as a catcher,” said Slaughter of Garcia, who batted over .400 and was in the team’s top three in stolen bases. “She’s an athlete.”

Prior to Far East, Garcia spent the spring break in early April at ASU’s Tempe campus, watching the team go through its paces for a week. School officials offered no guarantees, Garcia and her father Adolph said, other than they’d give her a tryout in August.

“I pray. This is everything I wanted,” Garcia said. “I’m going to give it my best.”

She’s carried that attitude, Garcia said, into every ballplaying venture she’s entered. She began playing diamond sports in California as a second grader, when she played baseball. She first played fastpitch in the fifth grade; “that’s where it all began,” Garcia said.

The end of her eighth-grade year saw her father transferred to Yongsan, and brought with it mixed feelings for Garcia, whose Falcons succeeded on the field, but at the expense of her game declining.

Seoul American plays most of its regular-season games against Osan American and Daegu American teams that they’ve dominated the past couple of seasons.

“Sometimes during high school, we’re beating up on two teams. That’s not fun. Nothing to be happy about,” Garcia said.

For that reason, Garcia entered as many local tournaments with adult teams as she possibly could, even slowpitch, which was why she played in this weekend’s Pacificwide Open.

“It’s always fun to play in the adult tournaments,” she said, adding the adjustment from fastpitch to slowpitch isn’t that difficult because she does it so much.

“Definitely, when I’m around people to challenge me, being competitive and having a good time, that’s when I enjoy the game. It makes me grow. It’s a good learning experience. It helps me get better.”

Garcia was a leadoff batter for most of her years at Seoul American, but Slaughter says he moved her to the third spot to take advantage of her line-drive stroke and give her more RBI opportunities.

Slaughter says that any college, ASU or otherwise, will be getting a talented and humble player in Garcia.

“If she was as confident as she already plays, she would be a monster,” Slaughter said. “She doesn’t believe she’s all that. Extremely humble.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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