Karla Claudio practising at the University of South Florida.

South Florida softball player Claudio living American dream

Puerto Rican native leading by example

Tampa – Karla Claudio was born to conquer her fears and to lead by example.

For a person who claimed to spend most of her childhood at a ballpark, success in any sport related to baseball should not be a surprise.

But what if that person wants to be more than a local player, or wants to play in another country where her native language is not spoken? What if that person wants to become a doctor?

That´s Karla Claudio.

Growing up in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, Claudio spent a big part of her childhood watching her father, Carlos Claudio, playing in a local baseball league called “the AA league.”

It was hard for her not to fall in love with the game, even as she was initially playing volleyball.

“My dad picked me up after a volleyball practice and I told him, this is not my thing, despite the fact that I was good at volleyball, I felt like I belong to a baseball park” said Claudio, outside the women’s dressing room at the University of South Florida.

Karla Claudio warming up on Monday.
Karla Claudio warming up on Monday. (Alexis Espejo/Toronto Observer)

Claudio considers herself a pitcher who can also help play the infield corners.

Claudio also wanted to get educated in the United States, but women´s baseball was not one of the games played in American colleges, so she decided to give softball a shot, increasing her chances of getting an opportunity to move to the U.S.

She started practising with her dad, who was also a voluntary coach for the Puerto Rican women national softball team.

The Santa Fe College offered her a chance to play softball in the U.S.

“My experience at the Santa Fe College was special, one of my dreams came true,” said the former captain and MVP of the Santa Fe Saints.

“I went to the U.S. without knowing the language, I was not even able to order a hamburger in McDonalds, but coach Christine Ahern helped me a lot to go through the process of learning the language. I also learned how to face challenges, and what attitude I should have towards the game.” Said Claudio who considered herself a fan of former Blue Jays player and member of the Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame Carlos Delgado.

It is not all about the diamond

Claudio was awarded in 2014 with the All-American Scholar Athlete, that distinction gave her the opportunity to study Health Science at the University of South Florida.

“People think we are here just to play softball when the truth is, we are also here to study, to get and education.” said Claudio, who carries a 3.5 grade point average.

“Softball is very important but studying is more important because I will not be able to play my whole life.”

Claudio is also thinking on getting a Master degree at Occupational Therapy when she finishes her senior year at the USF.

Boricua and proud

When Claudio was 11 years old, she wanted to wear the jersey of the Puerto Rico women softball team in an international competition. That dream came true years later.

“When they told me I was going to be part of the Puerto Rican national softball team, I could not believe it, I just started crying” said Claudio, who received the Puerto Rican Softball Federation Valores Award of 2012.

She earned the honour at the XIII Women Softball World Cup at Yukon, Canada, where she posted a batting average of .474, with seven RBIs. As a pitcher she logged 11.1 innings with an 2.74 earned run average. “It is hard to put into words”.

Since then Claudio has represent Puerto Rico in international softball tournaments in South Africa, Canada, Venezuela among other places.

Follow Alexis Espejo @AlexisELucena