Mar 17, 2017
CSU's softball team is back at home this weekend after an unforgettable trip to Hawaii where the Bucs competed in the Coca-Cola Malihini Aloha tournament and the Outrigger Resorts Spring Fling.
The Buccaneers saw plenty of tough competition off the mainland, facing off with Utah, Hawaii, Toledo, Seattle and Marist in 11 total games.
For many on the team, Honolulu was a trip of a lifetime full of excitement and new experiences. For senior center fielder Amanda Matsumoto, the trip was a dream realized.
"I have a lot of family and friends out in Hawaii and they had never seen me play softball, so this trip meant the world to me," Matsumoto said.
When Amanda began expressing a deep interest in softball at a young age, her parents chose to move from the suburbs of Honolulu to the mainland to give their daughter a better opportunity to pursue the sport competitively. While Amanda had spent most of her summers visiting Hawaii, her dedication to her collegiate career had kept her away from the Aloha State for the last five years.
"It was so special to have my family see me out there, doing what I love. With this being my last year, it was just surreal to see them in the stands before it all comes to an end."
Amanda says her family heavily influenced her passion for softball, specifically, growing up watching her dad and grandpa bond over baseball.
"My dad played for University High in Hawaii and was a great ballplayer back in the day. When we would visit in the summer, he and I would go back there with my grandpa and play catch."
Amanda says her grandpa was the real reason she started to play softball.
"He loved the game of baseball and he lived it through my dad and I. For me, softball has always been the deep thread that connected the three of us."
After her grandpa passed away, Amanda and her dad carried on the tradition, playing catch at University High during their summer trips to Hawaii.
"Before my grandpa passed, I vividly remember watching the Little League World Series and the College World Series with him, eyes glued to the screen. I turned to him at one point and said, 'One day that is going to be me.'"
Amanda's conviction grew even more during the summer of 2005, when she saw the USA Olympic team play an exhibition game at the University of Hawaii. As she watched stars like Jennie Finch, Natasha Wately and Vicky Galindo take the field at Rainbow Wahines Softball Stadium, her dream was clear.
"I remember someone got a hit and I whispered to my dad, 'One day, I want to play here.' My dad always believed that I would."
On March 3, 2017, Amanda got her chance as the Bucs opened the Coca-Cola Malihini Kipa Aloha tournament against Toledo at Rainbow Wahines Softball Stadium.
"It was incredible for my dream to come full circle like that. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to Coach Winkler. When you go to Charleston Southern, you don't ever imagine an opportunity like that is possible. To play in Hawaii in a stadium I spent my summers at, dreaming I would be out there one day. I just know my grandpa was smiling down on me."
Amanda says one of her favorite parts of the trip was getting to show her teammates the culture of the islands and where she grew up.
"They really liked the food. My parents and I took a lot of my teammates to different restaurants that only the locals know about, so getting to see them try different foods and really embrace it was so cool. I mean, when you can go to McDonald's and order Portuguese rice with sausage and eggs or a spam McMuffin, you go."
In addition to diving into the local cuisine, the Buccaneers went shark diving at the North Shore, learned to hula at a luau on Paradise Cove, went snorkeling on Waikiki Beach, saw oil from the U.S.S. Arizona bubble to the surface of the Pacific Ocean on a trip to Pearl Harbor and shopped for local creations in downtown Honolulu and Aloha Stadium's famous flea market.
While the Buccaneers trip to Hawaii has come and gone, Amanda says the team's renewed focus on family is just getting started.
"Our theme this year is ohana. I think we really got to see what that meant when we were out there. We had a softball alumni come out and see us play and talk to us, and her parents even held a barbeque for the team after two of our games. Just to see that kind of support, we all learned that ohana means more than family. It's about the connections you make with each other and the bond we have that no one else can understand."
Amanda says playing in the tournaments in Hawaii also taught the Bucs that they can compete with any other team out there. They'll get their chance this weekend as they open conference play on Friday against Liberty at CSU Softball Field.
Come out and show your support for the Buccaneers or follow the action through Live Stats on csusports.com or in-game updates on Twitter @CSUGameDay. First pitch between the Bucs and the Flames on Friday is set for 3:00 p.m. with a doubleheader to follow on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.