Roles are reversed again for Bethaney Keen as she prepares to play against Team USA this weekend rather than for them.
The first baseman’s dreams came true in 2017 when she made the national junior women’s softball squad, and now her University of South Florida Bulls are going up against the world’s best senior side for the second straight year.
Playing for and against U.S. national teams have been educational experiences for Keen, but it was her time on the junior club that taught her the most about herself.
“I ended up being one of the reserves … so I wasn’t in the starting line up,” she said, on a Zoom call this week from Tampa. “That was humbling for me, that (had) never happened. It made me open my eyes to a lot of things, to keep getting better.”
The Bradenton, FL. native persevered to become the star she is today and her assistant coach, Tommy Santiago, credits this to her experiences with national teams.
“That’s a fearless kid and I’m sure she’s gotten that off the junior team and playing all these top teams in the country that we play,” said Santiago. “I think those experiences that she’s had playing such top talent makes it easier for her because she knows what it looks like. She’s seen it before, it’s nothing new, and she’s not really frazzled by it.”
Keen has played for the Bulls for five seasons, one of which she was out due to injury, and has been a starter for the team in each of her eligible years. The redshirt junior has one of the best batting averages on the team, hitting .227, with five hits in 22 at-bats.
Playing for the national team is a reality for some collegiate level women, including Keen’s former junior teammate, Dejah Mulipola, who is currently on the American national squad.
Team USA may not be in Keen’s future, but she does have plans to continue her path in the world of sports.
“That was a step of the dream that I got to experience, and that’s as far as my dream will let me go playing for USA and that’s okay with me,” said Keen. “I found marketing and being creative … and getting my masters in marketing as well.”
“My dream job now if you could ask me, I would love to help with branding for Nike.”
The USF star is determined to pursue her goals in the future, whether that involves softball or coaching is undetermined.