SHIPROCK — Lanae Billy will venture farther than she ever has in her short life when the 13-year-old pitcher travels to the USA Elite Select's Futures All-American Games next month in Florida.
Billy was selected as a pitcher for the Far West 12U team following a March tryout in Glendale, Ariz. Even though she's 13, Billy is eligible to play on the 12U team because she turned 13 after beginning the tryout process.
At the tryouts, players rotated to different stations geared toward their position. At each station, college coaches put prospective players through a variety of drills, rating each player on their performance on a 1-5 scale.
"We had to do condition drills, we'd run down the field and they'd time us," said Billy, who will enter the eighth grade at Tse' Bit Ai' Middle School in Shiprock this fall. "Then we had to throw. They measured how hard and fast we threw. For pitching, they had you name what pitches you throw, then measured how well you threw. Then we did hitting — they throw us inside and outside (pitches)."
Following the March tryout, Billy was named a direct select player, meaning she was one of the top players in Glendale and earned an automatic bid to the All-American Games, which will be held in Kissimmee, Fla., a suburb of Orlando, July 30-Aug. 5 and will be televised by ESPN.
Billy has five pitches in her arsenal — fastball, changeup, dropball, riseball and curveball — and said her changeup is probably her best pitch.
The Far West region is made up of Arizona, Utah, Nevada and the southern half of California. New Mexico is part of the Midwest region with Texas and Oklahoma, but Billy tried out for the Far West team because it was easier to make it to Glendale for the tryout rather than traveling to Oklahoma City or McKinley, Texas, where the Midwest team held its tryouts.
Each team will play five games in Florida, and players and families are responsible for all expenses to attend the games. Since learning of making the Far West roster, Billy and her family have been fundraising and reaching out to businesses for sponsorships to help pay for the trip to Florida. Billy, her mother and younger brother will make the trip to Florida by car, driving about 2,000 miles one way to attend the event.
"We tried to get donations and sponsors, but a lot of it has just been saving up for this," said Billy's father, Benson. "You don’t get a lot of experiences like this one. If it's there, you have to take it."
Billy said she's nervous to play in such a major tournament with girls from all over the country, but she is also excited about the chance to showcase her skills and get on the national radar.
"I'm more excited about the experience and how well I'm going to do. I want to see how well I do against these other people and how well I do against them," she said. "It doesn't matter how nervous you are. If you put in the work, it will be OK."
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.