May 6, 2002
By Martina Gary, SDSU Athletic Media Relations
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get paid for playing a game? According to Sandra Durazo, current pitcher for international Italian team Rhea Vendors Caronno, it's a dream come true. Unlike other professional sports like football, basketball and baseball, very few softball athletes go on to play professionally. Durazo was among the few given the opportunity.
As a member of the San Diego State softball team she left her mark with a career high in wins (87), appearances (165), innings pitched (878.3), games started (116) and complete games (95). She hadn't fully thought about her options to play professional softball until she was contacted by Italian scouts her senior year.
"It wasn't until I was approached by coaches from Italy at the conclusion of a game against the University of Arizona that I thought of the possibility of playing softball overseas," said Durazo. "I realized that my softball career didn't have to end with the conclusion of my collegiate career."
Durazo now ranks sixth among the Series A1 teams with a 0.70 earned run average. Her stats can be found on her official team web site at www.abcaronno.it. She also currently leads the series all-league with strikeouts (59). With the huge transition of playing professional softball she has still managed to make a way to her spot at the top.
What she likes most is that her recent career accomplishments have given her the opportunity to get paid for playing softball. Sandra also earns incentives for no-hitters and shutouts. She has experienced challenging differences in her new career but has found similarities as well.
"Despite the communication barrier and cultural differences, softball is softball," said Durazo. "Whether it's played in the U.S. or Italy, it's the same game. Softball is the bond that breaks all barriers and brings teammates together."
Even as the game is the same, the pressure of being named "the foreign player" is not. Introduced as "Sandra the American player from San Diego" as the defense is being set or stepping up to the plate can bring about a strong case of sweaty palms.
In a recent poll on the Italian Softball website, Sandra was named as the best foreign pitcher in the country.
As a foreign player much is expected from her. Despite the pressure she has continued to play to the best of her ability. The pressure of playing internationally is just one of the many challenges that have been set before her. Living 5,000 miles away from home has also presented its obstacles.
"A lot of businesses close for three hours in the middle of the day," said Durazo. "Some don't even open on Mondays."
American roommate Tobin Echo-Hawk (University of Nebraska, Women's Professional Softball League) has helped Durazo adjust to the change associated with her new Italian way of life. "Tobin and I sit and discuss how different this lifestyle is and laugh at some of the things we've experienced thus far," said Durazo. "We relate to each other in many ways."
With little to no access of American television, Durazo's only options are soccer and MTV. As her viewing options are limited Durazo and roommate Tobin have found humor in game playing while watching MTV.
"We see who can name the video and artist first," said Durazo. "Since we've seen every video 10 times a day for the past two months we're getting pretty good."
Durazo compares her experiences in Italy to the movie, "Love and Basketball". Like the lead in the movie, Sandra decided to continue her athletic career over seas, leaving behind family, friends and a boyfriend to play the sport she loves. Though she is unsure of where her career will take her she is looking forward to a positive future. But for now, she says "Ciao".