For a week and a half in early July, Madison Ganaway could have temporarily gone by the name Madison DiRoma.
She was, after all, seeing the sights of Rome.
Ganaway, a 2019 Hobbs High School graduate and current shortstop for University of the Southwest, participated with a team called Beyond Sports, and through Beyond Sports Tours she and USW softball teammates Sierra Flores, a pitcher from San Fernando, California, and Mikayla Martinez, an out fielder from Odessa, were able to compete in Italy, play against some quality competition from a foreign country and tour one of the world’s oldest and most scenic regions.
You could say the experience was buono. Grande even.
“Of course,” Ganaway said. “Italy was beautiful, but I think the people I got to meet during that trip were probably my favorite because everybody was super nice. We kind of formed a little family because all of us were from another country and didn’t really know what we were doing. And to play the game that all of us love and have loved for many years was really awesome.”
The trip was set in motion when Ganaway, Flores and Martinez were relayed an email by their USW coach, Chris Petroski, about the opportunity to compete overseas.
“We were kind of into it,” Ganaway said, “and decided to go, and it just went from there.”
Beyond Sports Tours sent invitations to schools across the country, according to Ganaway. Players were given a certain amount of time to accept before a second wave of invitations went out. When the spots were filled up, the team was set, and the USW trio was headed overseas.
For Ganaway, it was a maiden voyage.
“This was my first time out of the country,” she said. “It was crazy, it was very surreal almost, because I hadn’t expected to leave the country any time soon. And within a matter of months I was going to a completely different side of the world. I was going on my own, not with my parents or anything like that. I was kind of nervous. I wouldn’t say it was scary, but it was kind of nerve-racking. But once I got out of the country it was a really good time.”
Ganaway, Flores and Martinez were in Italy for 10 days. During that span they only had games on three days, doubleheaders on each, so six games in all. When the trio wasn’t playing, there was ample time to explore the area and its rich history.
“We went to about six different cities,” Ganaway said, “and then toured all of the big views. We got to go to the Vatican museum, the Coliseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We went to Milan, Lake Como. We went to all kinds of different places.”
Flores, Martinez and Ganaway, competed well in their games. Though Ganaway doesn’t recall the results of all of them, she remembers mostly victories, with a loss at the end.
“We did pretty good,” she said. “The first two (doubleheaders) were against kind of like club teams from over there, and the last one, they had a few of their Olympic girls playing on the team against us. But we did pretty good, we held our own.
“It was pretty advanced , ”
Ganaway added. “I would say probably at the same advanced level of our D-1 college girls that go to our professional league here.”
Playing against that competition opened the eyes of Ganaway and her teammates.
“It showed me that this game is really worldwide,”
Ganaway said. “It helped me advance as a player to see girls across the world in another country, how they played. And to hear their views not only about the game, but the world, really. And how cool it is that this game brings people together like that.”