Please introduce yourself.
Hey, my name is Isabel Salcher. I´m 17 years old and I´m from Vorarlberg, Austria. The first time I started playing baseball was when I was 6 years old. My uncle (who used to play baseball then) dragged my brother and me to the baseball field. But I didn´t stick with the sport at that time. When I was 14 I started to play baseball again for the U16 team from the Hard Bulls and when I was old enough, I changed to the softball team called Hard Sharx who are playing in the highest division in Austria, where I am still playing today. I already got selected for the seniors national team last year and now I am really looking forward to the U22 team. I started in the outfield, but today I am either a pitcher or playing on second base.

Can you tell me something about softball in your country?
Softball in Austria is unfortunately not very popular. Some people barely know what baseball is, so no chance they would know softball. But I feel like it got more popular within the last few years. We have more and more young players and I just love to watch them and see how fast they get better. This year the “girls league” was introduced by the Austrian Softball Federation. In the girls league all U22 girls meet four times in the season and play against each other. I think this is a great and big step to make softball more popular and to give the young players the best opportunities to play. Other than that, we have two leagues. The Softball Bundesliga, which is the second league and the Austrian Softball League – the first league.

How often are you practicing with your national team and what do the practices look like?
We usually practice for one weekend every month. Living in the very west of Austria, it often takes me the longest (7+ hours) to get to the training camps. So I usually travel the day before practice starts. In practice we do everything we need to improve and to get better. Pitchers and catchers always get separate time. Especially in the offseason fitness and conditioning is a big part of the practice. To focus more on softball specific stuff in the practice together, our head coach created a workout which we have to do on our own at home.

Was it difficult to get into the national team and what is the process?
Last  year, when I got selected for the seniors national team, there were a few try outs. In the first try out we were about 30 – 35 players. After each tryout our coach cut a few players, until there were just 16 left. Of course I had to fight but you should fight every time anyway! No matter how good the others are, you should always focus on yourself and give 110%.

What's your best experience so far with the national team?
I spent just one season with the senior national team so far. But this experience was already incredible. We went to the European championships in Bollate in Italy and I had the opportunity to see how big softball in Europe really is. It was unbelievable how many people were there, cheering and playing. I think we are doing a great job making softball more popular all around the world.

Who's your role model and why?
I would say my role model is the U22 head coach Martina Lackner. She has so much experience, played in a lot of different countries and for a lot of different teams. She puts so much time and effort into the national youth team and is still playing for her own team. I have learned so much from this awesome pitcher and there is much more to learn.

Is there anything extra your country is doing for the Olympic Games in 2020?
With launching an extensive softball Youth Program including the start of the girl’s league, Austria is strengthening the future national team players that will join the seniors to play at their best level at the next Eurochamps in 2019.

Do you have a pre-game routine?
I don't really have the same routine every time. I warm up with my team, stretch, throw, hit. In my opinion it is important to have fun with your teammates before the game so that you get relaxed and are not too nervous. Throw in some jokes here and there. Just before the game is about to start I usually need some time for myself. I take my water bottle, look for a shadow spot and go into myself for a minute. After that, I am ready to go!

What do you think is the key to a successful team?
A successful team needs to be a real team. Just some random players with the same jersey on doesn´t mean that they are a team. A team needs to pick others up if they are down. A team needs to be there for each other, cheer for each other and motivate each other.

What is your goal for the 2018 season?
My goal for the upcoming season is to be successful on the U22 championships in Trnava and to earn a lot of playing time there. I will keep working on my pitching skills and I really want to get a lot of experience, on and off the field. With my hometown team, the Hard Sharx, I will do my best and work hard to win Gold in the Austrian Softball League again.

What is the best advice someone ever gave you?
Once I made a mistake in a game a teammate came up to me and said: “I am happy that you still worry about it. Because that shows me that you care … and that you won´t do it again.” Everyone makes mistakes. That is how you gain experience. You just need to learn from them. If you never fail, you will never get better.

- Romy Marinus -