TAMPA, Fla. – You may not immediately think of a group of doctors when you look at a softball team.
Then again, you might not be Amber Atkinson, catcher for the University of South Florida Bulls.
Surrounded by teammates pursuing medical and biomedical degrees, the USF senior is in her final semester of health sciences — not a surprise as the academic focus was why she chose the school.
“My freshman year at Indian River [State College], we played USF in the fall. I came here and I was like, ‘Woah, I like this place,’” said Atkinson, before practice last week. “I researched the school a lot, and I liked how their program works very well with medical students.”
Despite an impressive record at Indian River – she was team captain and FCSAA State Player of the Year as a sophomore, boasting a .442 batting average – she never quite felt like she fit in.
Coming to USF made sense for other reasons, too: she would be less than 90 minutes away from her Citrus County family, and most importantly, the softball would be up to her level.
“When I came here, [I] felt like this is where I needed to be,” she says. “They all have the same passions and drives that I do here, so I feel like I mesh very well.”
The aspiring orthopaedic physician’s assistant maintains a 3.6 GPA, and will be staying a year to complete a second degree in psychology. She is currently redshirting due to gastrointestinal complications, giving her more time in the catcher’s box for 2017-2018.
“Having her sit out a year with her injuries right now,” head softball coach Ken Eriksen said, “she’s beginning to find out that there’s a lot more passion that she had about the game than she thought.”
Part of her love of the game comes from the sense of family she feels with the Bulls.
“We’ve shared a lot of experiences here, and it’s going to be hard to part ways,” Atkinson says, as tears fill her eyes. “It would never be possible for me to know them if I wasn’t playing softball, so I’m thankful.”