Hannah fulfills international softball competition dreams
Cherokee Nation citizen Lexi Hannah fields a ground ball during a game in 2019 while playing shortstop for Tahlequah High School. Hannah is slated to play internationally in July with the USA Softball Junior Olympic team, America’s team. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Lexi Hannah makes a throw during a game in 2019 while playing shortstop for Tahlequah High School. Hannah is slated to play internationally in July with the USA Softball Junior Olympic team, America’s team. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Lexi Hannah awaits a pitch from third base while Tahlequah High School head coach Chris Ray looks on. Hannah is slated to play internationally in July with the USA Softball Junior Olympic team, America’s team. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – For many high school softball players, competing at the college level is a reachable goal. However, only elite players are selected to compete at the international level.
Cherokee Nation citizen Lexi Hannah is among those players.
The 16-year-old is the only Oklahoman and Native American selected to the USA Softball Junior Olympic 16 and under softball team, America’s Team. It’s slated to compete in a series of exhibition games in July in Bordeaux and Paris, France.
Lexi’s father, Leslie, got her interested in playing softball at a young age.
“This kid’s grown up around a softball field,” Leslie said. “I’ve been an umpire all of her life and she’s followed me to games. Her cousins play, her uncle played, I’ve played. She’s just been around the game all her life. She was 3 years old the first time she played when we lived in Salina, Kansas. She just took off from there.”
Lexi said she enjoys the game and has been hooked on it since being introduced to it.
“My dad started me on it and I’ve been hooked on it ever since,” she said. “I play softball for the fun of it and make friends.”
However, Leslie said, his daughter takes the game seriously and tries her best each time she is on the field. So seriously that she made the varsity team at Tahlequah High School in 2018 as a freshman and was mainly used a pinch runner and hitter. In the fall 2019 season, her sophomore year, she earned the starting shortstop position.
“Well, I just tried out for the team and I guess coach (Chris) Ray saw potential in me,” she said. “He put me on the varsity team as the shortstop this year.”
Leslie said Lexi is constantly wanting to hone her craft so he signed her up for a summer softball camp hosted by former USA Softball Olympic team member Jennie Finch. It was there that Lexi tried out for America’s Team.
“My dad talked to Leah Amico (America’s Team head coach) and I tried out for the team and made it,” Lexi said. “About 300 players tried out and only 11 are going from all over the U.S.”
Leslie said Lexi is going on the trip alone, but is excited for her nonetheless.
“I think her mother is a little bit nervous but I’m excited for her to go,” he said. “It will be good to get her the experience of playing on a bigger stage, to get her the experience of international travel as a cultural exchange to make some friends in a foreign country and to be an ambassador for the game of softball from the United States and the Cherokee Nation.”
Leslie said the trip is partly funded by the American Council for International Studies but individual players are responsible for their fundraising to help support their trips.
“The organizers sent us some sports memorabilia to auction off and do a silent auction,” he said. “I guess we’re going to try to do that as an online auction now since our original plan was canceled due to virus precautions.”
As of publication, the trip is still scheduled. However, Leslie said organizers are in the beginning stages of establishing a “backup plan.”
Items for Lexi’s fundraising efforts can be viewed on Leslie’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ldhannah