TRINITY — In the country where the Olympics started and sports competition dates to the 13th century B.C., West Morgan High School student Alexis Casteel is going to play softball.
The junior, a starting varsity pitcher since eighth grade, was selected to play with America’s Team, a group that will tour Greece and Italy on July 22-30.
During four days, she will compete in eight games against the Greek and Italian national teams and against some club squads composed of former national team members.
“We’ve never had anybody at our school to receive an invitation like this,” West Morgan Principal Keith Harris said.
Casteel, 16 and a National Honor Society member with a 4.14 grade-point-average, received the invitation because of her academic and athletic success, Wallace State Community College Coach Tracy Grindrod said. He is coaching the team in games designed to promote goodwill between American and foreign student-athletes.
“This trip also is about culture and education,” Grindrod said. “We’re taking some of America’s best student-athletes to a place many of them have never been.”
That’s true for Casteel, whose biggest fear is the flight. “I have never been on a plane,” she said.
She received her invitation six months ago, but wasn’t sure until recently that she could make the trip because of costs.
She’s raising $4,500 and is committed “because I want to be a positive ambassador for my school, community and country.”
Her friends, coaches and teammates are determined to help her make the journey because of the positive impact they say she has had on the school and community.
“She’s so determined and dedicated,” said Lexi Bates, a senior who is on the cheerleading squad with Casteel. “She’s not loud in school, but she brings a lot of spirit to our team.”
Senior Baylee Carpenter has been teammates with Casteel since seventh grade.
“She’s a friend who is loyal, honest and you can always trust her to be there,” Carpenter said. “She’s hardworking, very dedicated, and I’m not surprised that she got invited to be part of this team.”
Casteel started playing on West Morgan’s varsity squad in the eighth grade as a starting pitcher. She won a state championship in 2009 and has been on Morgan County’s all-tournament team the past three seasons. She’s uncomfortable talking about her individual athletic accolades but smiles when she speaks about her team and her life away from sports.
On her locker, Casteel has her National Honor Society patch and certificates proclaiming her science club membership and involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I have to think about life after sports,” she said when asked why no athletic achievements are mentioned on her locker.
Assistant softball coach Melanie Henson said that is typical of her work ethic and humility.
“She went a long time before she told anyone she had been invited to be part of this team,” Henson said.
“I don’t know why,” Casteel said. “I didn’t want anyone to think I was bragging, and you don’t get things like this without teammates.”
As she strolled through the halls at West Morgan, she looked at every locker with a Big Brothers Big Sisters sticker.
Casteel got involved with the program this year and spends at least one morning per week at West Morgan Elementary.
“I want to be a leader,” she said. “And when I have kids, I want them to look up to me.”
Casteel wants to become a nurse specializing in pediatric oncology because of two factors: She loves helping children, and a friend’s mother died of cancer.
The next big decision for her may be where to attend college. She opens mail from recruiters almost daily and is leaning toward Covenant College, an NCAA Division III school in Georgia.
Division III colleges and universities do not provide athletic scholarships.
“Wherever she decides to go, that college is going to get a born leader who pays attention to detail and is an excellent student,” said Harris, who coached Casteel her first year at West Morgan.
Deangelo McDaniel can be reached at 256-340-2469.
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