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Canada’s finest

Christie Chapman has come a long way to be named one of four captains of the USF softball team this year.

The senior shortstop, who hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, made the decision four years ago to leave everything behind and travel south, across nearly the entire United States, for a chance to play the game she loves and get an education while doing it.

“Well, I knew I was going to be far away no matter what because you can’t go to school for (softball) in Canada,” Chapman said.

Growing up with a father who played baseball for both the Atlanta Braves and the Montreal Expos, Chapman had been surrounded by the game her entire life and was sure she wanted to play on a collegiate level.

“My dad is a huge part of my career,” Chapman said. “We’re a baseball family. I played other sports, too, but baseball was always central in my family. I actually played baseball with the boys in grades four through nine, but I switched to softball in grade 10 because I knew I should try and play softball to get a scholarship.”

Coach Ken Eriksen first saw Chapman while coaching the United States national softball team at a tournament in Canada, and the play of the instinctive shortstop made an impact on him immediately.

“You don’t see players with those type of instincts at that age,” Eriksen recalled. “She had uncanny power for somebody her size, and she had great instincts and a great nose for the ball. I remember making a phone call the first time I saw her to coach (Stacey) Heintz, and I said, ‘Stacey, I think we found our shortstop.'”

While regulations prevented Eriksen from speaking to Chapman at the tournament, he wasted no time in contacting her coach and expressing his desire for her to become a South Florida Bull.

“(Eriksen) wasn’t allowed to talk to me at the tournament, but he talked to my coach and then I got a letter afterwards about USF,” Chapman said. “So that’s how I got from all the way up there to all the way down here.”

Like any college freshman away from home, Chapman’s separation from her family and friends took a toll on her at first. However, she found that focusing on softball was perfect for keeping her mind occupied.

“I was homesick a little bit at first in the fall,” Chapman said. “I missed my family and my boyfriend, so that was hard, but once the season starts it goes so fast that you don’t even think about it.”

Perhaps the reason Chapman’s first year seemed to go by so fast was because the freshman was so busy making an impact on her team. In her first year with the Bulls, Chapman was the only player on the roster to start all 73 games. She also finished fourth on the team in RBI (40) and led the team in sacrifice bunts (15). The freshman shortstop had turned out to be exactly what Eriksen was hoping for.

“We had had Lea Mishlan the year before, who was a great shortstop,” Eriksen said. “But we were searching as hard as we could to find someone who could walk right in and play as a freshman, and Christie fit that bill right away.”

Since her freshman season, Chapman has grown from a talented shortstop to a team leader who commands the respect of her teammates but feels that leadership should be displayed through actions instead of words.

“I definitely try to lead by example,” Chapman said. “I mean, sometimes you have to say things, but I try not to talk too much because it usually ends up going in one ear and out the other. I think the four captains all pretty much try to lead by example and speak when necessary, but I think actions are always more important.”

Senior Tiffany Stewart, one of this year’s four captains along with Chapman, Krista Holle and Samantha Ray, recognizes Chapman’s talent.

“She’s one of the best shortstops I’ve ever seen,” Stewart said. “There’s not much she can’t do, she’s just a phenomenal athlete.”

Senior third baseman Holle feels it’s Chapman’s determination that had led to her success on the field.

“She works just as hard or harder than anyone,” Holle said. “I think she has the heart and desire needed to get through every game we play.”

Through 46 games this season, Chapman is tied for the team lead in RBI (33) and second on the team in batting average (.344), runs (27) and hits (45). She has also recorded a team-high 139 assists to raise her career total to 611, only seven shy of the USF career record.

As her career at USF winds down, Chapman is still unsure of whether she will continue to play softball after she graduates, but if she decides to, opportunities are already becoming available.

“Ken (Eriksen) contacted me about one of the pro teams, the Philadelphia Spirit, interested in signing me, but I can’t talk to them until I’m done with my career,” Chapman said. “Then there’s always the Canadian national team. I didn’t want to play with them for a long time, but they just got a new coach and I heard she’s really good, so I don’t know. I’m toying with the idea right now, but I’m not sure yet.”

While Chapman prepares for what will inevitably be another great change in her life, she can look back on her four years at USF and realize while she was once forced to leave her family behind in order to play the game she loves, she has gained an entirely new family playing softball for the Bulls.

“Christie actually came up with our shirt for this year, and it says ‘USF: Undivided Strength in Family,” Stewart said. “That’s how we look at each other – like sisters. We love each other to death; it’s been a great four years, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her or any of the girls on the team for that matter, so I would definitely say that we’ve become family.”