Starting on Monday, Aug. 4, members of the Crimson Tide softball team will be posting daily blog entries from their trip to the Netherlands. Follow along as Alabama Softball gives you a first-hand account of the team’s first ever international trip!

 

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Thursday, August 14

By Chandler Dare #5 and Sydney Littlejohn #28

Today we began our journey back to the United States! We left the cottage at 6:30 a.m. and headed to the airport. Once we got to the airport, we unloaded our bus and said a sad goodbye to our bus driver, Pieter.

The Schiphol airport in Amsterdam is different from most American airports in how they do security. We had to get our plane tickets, drop off our luggage, get our passports checked, walk to the gate and then go through security. In other words, each gate had its own security right before boarding the plane, which was different to us. Once we were all seated on the plane, one of the flight attendants announced over the intercom, "This is an American airline, therefore, we serve ice with our drinks," and our whole team got excited and cheered because in the Netherlands they never put ice in our drinks.

The flight was very long (around nine hours), but we had plenty of time to catch up on sleep and watch some movies. After our lengthy flight, we finally made it back to America! We landed safely in Atlanta, went through customs and got on our bus. Everyone was exhausted after an early morning in the Netherlands, the long flight and the bus ride back from Atlanta, but we were very excited to be back in Tuscaloosa! Some of us cannot wait to grab a giant American burger with french fries and a huge drink with free refills. Oh, the things we take for granted!

The people of the Netherlands were very welcoming and nice people! The food was good and the ice cream was even better! Not to forget the rich chocolate and copious amounts of cheese - which Chaunsey Bell enjoyed very much. The landscaping was absolutely gorgeous and the architecture was unbelievable! There were buildings still standing from the 1600's! It was a beautiful sight.

This was an incredible trip and we are beyond thankful for all the people who made this trip possible. It was an experience we will never forget. Thank you so much, Coach Murphy, for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Wednesday, August 13

By Peyton Grantham #3

This morning we woke up and all had breakfast together like a regular morning, but instead of preparing for the day and getting ready for our predetermined destinations, none of us had any idea what was planned for us today.

When we got on the bus, Coach Murphy called all of us to the back of the bus and read us an article that was about giving without expecting anything in return. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Once he was finished, he told us that was exactly what we were going to do today: give without expecting anything in return at an American military cemetery with soldiers from World War II in the town of Margraten. The superintendent, Keith Stadler, gave a short informational, historical background and introduced us to a few of the soldiers.

At the cemetery, we cleaned over 2,000 headstones of many soldiers. The entire cemetery held 8,301 deceased soldiers. It was one of the coolest and most humbling experiences I've ever been a part of. When we got on the bus, we were informed that every U.S soldier who rests there has been adopted by a local family that tends to the grave, puts flowers on the grave and have even built relationships with the family members of the deceased back in the U.S. A lot of the men and women who rest there average around 20-years-old, which is close in age to most of our team.

After that, we went into a small town for some lunch and ice cream. The food here is BOMB! It’s so good. Once again, when we got back to our village we had another surprise planned for us. We went on a tractor ride through the city to a farm where we fed some sheep and cows. The farm was completely organic and they had a few samples of food for us to try, which were out of this world!

Then we got back to our cottage for a full-course Dutch meal. It started with a soup that tasted similar to chicken noodle, then salad and finally meatballs and potatoes. After dinner, we played a little soccer and waited for our next surprise. The next surprise was set up in a separate building and we all sang karaoke together. It was a blast! I can't believe our time here has already come and gone but this has been an amazing trip and I couldn't ask for better teammates, coaches, and support staff.

Tuesday, August 12

By Marisa Runyon #9

Today we got up to eat around 8 a.m. and departed at 9 for our adventure in Delft - the city of Delft Blue, the House of Orange and painter Johannes Vermeer. Looking at the weather, we noticed that it wasn't going to get above 66 so most of us wore jeans. Yesterday, some of us started to play cards up front at the table on the bus where Coach Murphy sat so this morning Molly, Peyton, Murph and I sat at the table to play some card games. While mostly everyone else on the bus slept, we enjoyed playing 21, 31 and Kings in the Corners; a new game that Kate Harris taught us. Playing cards makes an hour bus ride fly by!

Every time we went shopping this past week, we were told to hold off on buying these little blue and white pottery pieces. This was because Delft is known for making these blue and white porcelain pieces known as Delftware that are iconic symbols of the Netherlands. When we arrived in Delft, our bus driver parked outside of the last standing Delftware factory from the 1700’s that had nothing but Delftware. From vases to windmills to a little boy and girl set up to kiss...they had it all. When we walked in, there was a small room where you could take your own picture to show up on a tile so a group of us gathered around to get in the picture. It was so cool! After that there was the small café, and before long we were all sitting in the cafe with desserts or drinks in front of us. Kallie and I had the apple turnover which was delicious and Andrea tried a strawberry dessert which she seemed to enjoy as well.

Our next stop was Delft Square. This was the main shopping and dining area in the village. We all grabbed lunch at a small restaurant and then we were able to go in small groups to look around. At lunch, Murph asked the waiter at the little restaurant if he had heard of Alabama and the waiter said, "of course!" and he started singing a wonderful version of Sweet Home Alabama. Murph gave him an Alabama softball pin on the spot! Some of us grabbed some ice cream and souvenirs while a few others got a tour in two different churches. Kallie came back with some new clothes while Danielle, Sydney and Chandler came back with a new pair of shoes!

Our last stop of the day was Tilburg, a small village where our bus driver's family lives, so of course he gave us a little tour. We had dinner all set up for us at a nice restaurant but they didn't have any English menus so we needed Peter (our bus driver) to translate. Like a lot of the food here, we had no idea what to expect but it was delicious! I think the bread was my favorite, it's so good here.

The highlight of the day in my opinion was how excited Coach Aly was to go into a church on the way back to the bus after dinner. She looked over and saw the doors were wide open, but she was too excited to even think about looking behind her. Next thing we know, we're screaming Aly's name because she crossed right into the path of an elderly man on a bike. The man swerved and Aly jumped and screamed "sorry" as they just barely avoided each other. I must say, the man had a great recovery and didn't even fall! This gave us plenty of laughs when Aly got back on the bus.

We were only 10 minutes away from where we are staying so it was a quick trip back from dinner. The rest of the night we were just bonding out in the hallway before our 10:30 curfew. We were told to wear something "comfy" tomorrow but we have no clue what is in store for us. All I can say is that it's our last day to explore the Netherlands so no matter what, we are going to go out with a bang! I can't wait to make some more memories. Roll Tide!

Monday, August 11

By Andrea Hawkins #18

We started our day off early this morning with an 8 a.m. breakfast and a 9 a.m. departure. Everyone had the usual bacon & eggs with the AMAZING bread. This morning was a lot cooler and breezier than it has been in the past week, but everyone was so excited to go canoeing! The drive to Hotel Watergang was about 90 minutes. Myel welcomed us as soon as we got there and we learned she was very excited to have us! She explained how softball wasn't very big in the Netherlands, so it was very cool for her to have us there! She also added she could tell how strong we were and that we were going to need it when we got in the water.

It was very interesting listening to the girls figure out how they were going to pair themselves up in the canoes. I got paired up with Coach Murphy and Myel was the captain of our boat. As soon as we walked out onto the dock, we were quickly reminded how windy it was at that it was going to be quite the challenge.

It was a challenge to say the least and Myel was right about us needing to be strong to canoe! It took everyone a good bit of time to learn how to steer the boat and get in sync with each other. For a while, the girls were running in to each other or paddling in circles. It was quite the entertainment! Our boat was the leader until we had to go pick up another boat that was stuck in the weeds and paddling in circles. Paddling against the wind was definitely a sight to see. It took around an hour and a half to get to our picnic site. When we finally made it to the island where the picnic was held, Myel took us around the island and we learned that we weren’t actually on solid ground. The interesting thing was that the island was on top of mud and the whole island was soft and you could bounce and feel the water under you. Myel had the time of her life jumping and showing us that we were on top of water still. We found out this is the reason people from Holland apparently wear wooden shoes! Wooden shoes are the best in this climate, considering the entire country was built on a lake!

At this point of the canoe trip, everyone was starving so we set out tarps to sit on and Myel passed out plates, cups and silverware and started handing out all types of bread, cheese, fruits, nuts, sausage, and juices. Oh and not to mention, she also brought us Pringles. Coach Aly and Chaunsey Bell were going crazy over the cheese. I'm pretty sure that's all they ate! After we finished our meal, we packed everything back up on the canoes and got back in the water and headed back to where we began. The ride back to the dock was a lot smoother than the way up! By this time everyone had gotten the hang of how the canoe worked and everyone was finally in sync. We made it back to the dock safely and told Myel and the staff goodbye.

Next we went to a small town on the water called Volendam and got to shop around for about an hour and ate dinner on the water. A lot of the girls got seafood for the first time since we've been here and absolutely loved it!

The bus ride back from our eventful day was definitely one to remember. The two-hour ride flew by because we played lots of concentration games and ended the ride dancing to the "Wobble".

Today was a great day of team building with lots of laughter and jokes. Coach Murphy knew what he was doing when he planned that. I'm so excited to see what tomorrow has in store!

Sunday, August 10

By Leona Lafaele #24

Today was probably one of the best days of our trip so far! As usual, we started our day off with breakfast. The bread was amazing! Today the kitchen staff left some Nutella, which made the bread even more amazing! After we ate, we started to get ready for our last game against the Netherlands' best.

Just like all the other bus rides, everyone fell asleep...and Sydney Littlejohn was snoring. Once we arrived, we stretched and warmed up and while we were throwing Danielle Richard almost got hit in the head three times. It was hilarious! As the game began it didn't take long for both teams to score. Our upcoming sophomores had a great game today. Peyton Grantham hit a line drive double, while Chandler Dare came up big with another double that scored our first run of the game. After the fourth inning, the game got delayed because of the rain.

The rain did not keep either of our teams down in the dumps. While it was pouring outside, Kallie Case and Danielle Richard ran out of the dugout and began to dance. They started a party that both our teams will never forget! It started with just these two, but it didn't take long before both teams were outside dancing in the rain! It was such an amazing experience because at that moment, softball didn't matter and it was just about having fun and making memories we'll never forget. Both teams were laughing as if we had known each other for years. We even played hackie sack as one big team. All the smiles and laughs we shared were memories I'll never forget. Unfortunately the rain stopped and our party had come to an end. But soon after playing one more inning, the game was finally canceled because the rain came back.

Instead of packing up and heading home, we brought our party inside and had an awesome dinner with the Netherlands team. I probably had the best sausage of my life at dinner. All of the food was great! While we ate together, we really got to know each other. I actually met one of the pitchers who was originally from Louisiana, but she decided to move to Amsterdam after falling in love with their team. I also met one of their outfielders who was all the way from Indonesia. It was such a great experience to talk to these players and get to know them off the field. After eating our delicious dinner we had to say our goodbyes, but not before taking a million selfies and pictures with each other.

Overall, this day was filled with great memories I'm sure both teams will remember for a lifetime. From playing ball to playing hackie sack in the rain with total strangers, all of our crazy moments will be remembered. Although I didn't "dance in the rain" with our National Championship team in 2012, I got to dance in the rain with my best friends and newly-found friends from the Netherlands!

Saturday, August 9

By Kallie Case #12

Play ball!! Saturday was game day in the Netherlands! This morning we all woke up and had breakfast together. It is always a fun experience to see what new foods they put out for breakfast! Today Murph, Leslie Jury, Danielle Richard, Ryan Iamurri and I all helped make some eggs and bacon on the outside grill. After we ate breakfast, we had some time to ourselves and then it was time to attack the day!! We had our first team lunch at the hotel. We ate a delicious lunch of chicken and rice with vegetables. After lunch it was time to get ready and head to the game! We got a new bus driver Peter and he is so sweet and always smiling!

Finally it was time to play ball! Our first game got canceled on Wednesday so today was our first day in the jersey! Ryan, Jordan Patterson and Molly Fichtner (the senior citizens) were all torn because it was the last time they got to wear the white Bama uniform! We walked up and the place was packed. They had to bring extra bleachers because so many fans came. Before the game started, we were doing the usual hacky sack, stretching and some dancing too! While the team was making sure we were loose, our strength coach Michelle Diltz was warming up her arm and playing catch with Leona Lafaele in the outfield!

It was an experience right from the get go. As we were being announced, we lined up from the pitcher’s mound all the way to first base. It was a very cool experience because after they played our national anthem, they played the Dutch national anthem and the team and fans all sang in Dutch! Even though we didn't know what they were saying it was a moment I'll never forget! Then we met all of their players in the middle to shake hands and exchange gifts. It is an international tradition to exchange gifts before the game. We received an orange wooden shoe keychain that said Holland and we gave them Alabama pins. We also had the cutest Belgian girl for our bat girl named Colby!

The results weren't what we wanted but the overall experience was once in a lifetime. Chandler Dare had a great game as the leadoff hitter, reaching base twice with a stolen base. After the game we took pictures on the field and ate dinner with the Dutch national team. They were very friendly and made us feel right at home. We had a buffet of food that was Dutch and delicious! It was a variety of chicken and beef with rice, pasta, potatoes, fish curry and, the most important part, the bread! We got to interact with the Dutch national team and talk to them about where they are all from and what schools they went to. One girl was from Louisiana and [Associate Head Coach] Aly had a blast talking to her! One of the girls on their team was holding a box and talking to the team in Dutch and they were getting so excited. We were all staring and wondering, ‘what was going on’? She finally opened up the box and it was an amazing dessert that is their favorite. They described it as a cake filled with whipped cream and dipped in chocolate. We didn't think it was that big of a deal until they shared it with us! We all got to try it and then realized why they were making such a big deal out of it!

When we were leaving, we found a little boy who had a full soccer uniform on and was playing soccer by himself. We decided we wanted to go play with him, having no idea what we were getting ourselves in to. It turns out little Taylor was the eight-year-old son of the Dutch team’s head coach and could beat any one of our players! In fact, Chandler and I tried to play him and he got past us both! It’s safe to say the people here are so welcoming and have the best personalities! We left the field with smiles on our face and a full tummy! I can't wait to be back at the field tomorrow and make more memories.

Friday, August 8

By Danae Hays #15

We started our day in an unusual fashion. We got up and put our practice clothes on and headed out to the farm. I wasn't too sure on how much we could possibly do in a cow pasture, but our trainer, Michelle Diltz, made sure we did plenty! After not doing much physical fitness and eating a ton of cheese and chocolates for four days, I think we needed it. I never thought I'd see corn and horses on an Alabama Softball practice field, but it was definitely memorable.

After doing a few softball drills and sprints we headed in the cottage for showers and breakfast. Murph played chef and cooked us all eggs and bacon. He might have Rachael Ray beat.

Soon after, we were unloading the bus in Amsterdam to tour the Anne Frank House. This tour was one of the main highlights of my trip so far. I still cannot believe that she never saw the sun for two years or never got to go outside and play like every kid wants. Even though I have heard the story several times while growing up in school, I still did not understand completely what she went through until I got to see the home in person. I am so happy I got to share this experience with my teammates and coaches. The tour was a main event in downtown Amsterdam, the line to get in was at least four blocks long.

Afterwards, Murph treated us to an Italian restaurant that was primetime! It was a hole in the wall and of course those are always the best. I doubt they had ever had that many Alabamians let alone Americans in that place at one time.

After lunch we hustled on over to the famous Van Gogh Museum! The paintings we had the privilege to see were beautiful. I couldn't believe I was seeing them in person. The famous painting Starry Night is being displayed in New York at the moment so I guess that gives us a reason to go to NYC soon!

The memories that I made today with my team and coaches will always be with me. I am one lucky girl! Roll Tide!

Thursday, August 7

By Danielle Richard #19

Today we embarked on an adventure that every girl dreams of: European countryside, caramel cappuccinos and SHOPPING!!

Breakfast this morning was so cool! They had this oversized skillet set up downstairs where we could cook our own breakfast, so naturally all of our inner chefs came out! We cooked our own eggs and bacon. It was really good!

Around 9:25 a.m. everyone started to head toward the bus to begin this exciting journey of "shopping 'til we drop!" It took us an hour and thirty minutes to get to Amsterdam from Diessen. We went shopping in a place called Dam (pronounce Dom) Square, otherwise known as The Dam. It had a ton of places to go shopping. They had everything from unique European stores to common American stores. They even had street shows in the middle of Dom Square!

On my very first shopping spree in Amsterdam, we stopped at a place called Van Daele Café where we started off the day with an amazing caramel cappuccino! They came in these tiny to-go cups. Our second stop of the day was at a local shoe store called Opium (and no it's not what you think) where Jordan Patterson and Kallie Case both bought some Nike high tops. They were so cute!

The next place we went to was a European clothing store called Pimkie where we met Quinton! He was an extremely nice salesman that kindly answered all of our questions about Amsterdam and where certain stores were located. I thought it was so neat that Quinton went out of his way to help us feel welcome! He really impressed me. The people here are very friendly and are always willing to offer up help and do it with a smile!

The city had plenty of awesome restaurants and beautiful architecture to admire, but we really wanted to experience the culture of this big, busy city. We found several walls of buildings marked with the art of local graffiti artists. Ryan Iamurri had been looking for a graffiti wall to take pictures with! We had one local guy giggle at us when we all got really excited about the first graffiti wall we saw. We asked him if he could take our picture for us since he obviously knew why we were excited!

We ended day four of the Netherlands Tour in a small, sleepy town outside of Diessen! We ate at a restaurant called Grand Café de Zwaan. The food was great! I ordered baked salmon and pasta and I also managed to finish off Ryan's tomato soup, try clams for the first time and have a bite of Leona Lafaele's chicken stir fry! It's safe to say that there won't be any food left on anyone's plate if I'm around!

We have to get a good night's rest tonight because tomorrow morning we begin our museum tours, after morning practice of course. I can't wait to learn more about Anne Frank and Vincent Van Gogh!

Wednesday, August 6

By Jadyn Spencer #17

If you're at all familiar with this group, you would know that we are well-equipped to make the most of any situation. This skill was in full effect right away this morning at breakfast. There were not many familiar options on the breakfast menu, but no one hesitated, and we all tried something new! There was an impressive array of breads and cheese and it was AWESOME! We then headed to The Hague to see the capital. Unfortunately, we didn't see any government officials due to a holiday break, but we did get to see the statue of Willem De Eerste. The architecture was a different kind of beautiful, but hard to describe so why don’t we just show you!

After we were done being tourists, we began to switch to game mode in preparation for our first game of the trip. Plot twist: our game was rained out. Naturally, we made the most of the situation and acquainted ourselves with the Dutch National team. They were great hosts! They have a great group of ladies and we are looking forward to getting to know them better as the week goes on. Thankfully after we got on the bus to head back to De Nieuwe Erf, everyone was on the same page when we saw an arcade with go-karts. We stopped for a little fun that turned into an intense competition. Danae Hays, Peyton Grantham, and Kate Harris looked like they could put the amateurs racing in that Daytona 500 to shame!

To finish off today's festivities, we stopped at a little restaurant in downtown Diessen. The menu was in Dutch and everyone working there spoke very little English. You never realize how hard it is to communicate with a language barrier but to go along with today's common theme, we made the language barrier a fun one. Kallie Case and Danielle Richard (the littlest Dan in Amsterdam) turned the restaurant into a dance floor and by the end of the night, we all made three new friends. The three guys working in that restaurant looked like they were having just as much fun as we were! It was a successful Day Three and everyone be on the lookout for Day Four because tomorrow we do what girls do best... SHOPPING!

Tuesday, August 5

By Chaunsey Bell #21

What an adventure it has been so far!!

We started our journey yesterday at 12:30 pm in Tuscaloosa heading to the Atlanta airport. It was smooth sailing through customs and we even had enough time to grab something to eat before boarding. Our eight hour flight took off at 8 p.m. The team was more than excited for the amazing selection of movies that were available on the plane. I know I would have stayed up all eight hours if Jordan Patterson hadn't forced me to sleep! Little did I know she saved my life!

We arrived at the Amsterdam airport at 10:15 a.m., which is 3:15 a.m. back in Alabama, so needless to say our times were all out of whack. We then hopped on the bus with our tour guide to see some of the most beautiful historical sites that the Netherlands has to offer. Our first stop was the Rembrandt windmill that was built in 1636. We then toured around the city taking many pictures of all the amazing sights. While walking around, we had to be quick on our feet to keep up with the fast pace of the city. One thing we learned quickly is look both ways before you cross every street because at any moment we could be trampled by a bike rider! I love how everyone here rides a bike, walks, rides the bus or takes a boat.

We got to experience our first boat ride this afternoon when we took a canal tour to see what life is like for the locals. I was amazed at the number of house boats. What a life! There are so many beautiful sites. Most of the buildings here were built in the 1600s, so the original architecture is phenomenal.

We just arrived at De Nieuwe Erf, the place where we are staying. It's a quaint little cottage area with bunk beds all over. Let the bonding begin! We’re so excited to see what the rest of this tour has in store for us.

Monday, August 4

By Leslie Jury #23

Our European adventure has finally arrived! Today we leave on an eight-hour flight out of the Atlanta airport at 7:30 p.m. and we land in Amsterdam around 10:30 a.m. tomorrow with the time change. It's going to be a long flight but we can't wait to get over to Amsterdam and see what Europe has in store for us!

Everyone had to report back to Tuscaloosa last Sunday the 27th for a team meeting at Coach Murphy's house. There's nothing quite as special as seeing this team reunite after a long time apart from each other. It's like being at a family reunion with people you haven't seen in years, but it’s really only been a few weeks for us. I can't tell you how good it feels to be back with my sisters. It's a special bond to be so close with someone that they understand exactly who you are and everything about you. Here at Alabama I have 17 sisters who do.

The rest of the week, we practiced! We had hitting in the morning, weight room workouts in the afternoon and we'd have defensive practice under the lights every night at Rhoads Stadium. The first couple days of practice, we were definitely knocking the rust off but by the end of the week we looked like we hadn't missed a beat since the end of the season. The hitters look great! Jadyn [Spencer] and Leona [Lafaele] have been sending the ball out of the park all week and little old Chandler [Dare] has even been ripping balls off the right-field wall. Defensively, everyone looks like they haven't missed a beat. Coach Murphy didn't take it easy on us this week and the girls stepped up to the challenge.

I can't explain how grateful I am for this opportunity to play overseas with this group of girls. This is an experience of a lifetime and I can't wait to see what Europe has in store for this team. One of the best parts about this whole trip is that we get to take some of our recently graduated "senior citizens". Molly Fichtner, Ryan Iamurri and Jordan Patterson will be coming with us, and it's so great that we get to share the field and wear the jersey with three of the best there ever was to play at Bama one last time.

This is going to be an amazing 10 days over in Europe and we're going to keep y'all updated the entire time!

     
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