April 19, 2007
Anytime a Latin American team is on TV in United States there is always the footage of kids playing baseball in the streets. For Florida State senior Yuruby Alicart that was how she was introduced to the game and the streets of Maracay, Venezuela were her gateway to a world she could only dream of.
When Alicart first started to play sports there were no organized leagues for girls, she honed her skills with the boys in the streets. Anyone who has seen Alicart on the diamond knows she has lightening fast hands and she attributes her skills from learning to field the ball with her bare hands as games back home are played with no gloves, a stick and a ball typically made up of tape.
“I started playing baseball because back home baseball is very big, that’s what you see all year,” Alicart said. “I also did karate and soccer because everyone plays those sports when they are in season, but baseball was the sport I really liked.”
Even though she was a girl playing with the boys, Alicart had the skills to stand out. Her play caught the attention of her uncle Luis Eduardo Ramirez, who was visiting and had a baseball team of his own in another part of the country. He convinced Alicart’s mother Zaira to take her to play for the local baseball team.
After a few years with the boys she finally got the opportunity to play on an all-girls softball team. For two years Alicart played on the Edo Aragua state team that traveled the country. Her efforts with the state team got her invited to play in a tournament that the national team used to select its players. Just a junior in high school she was selected for the national team and on her way to playing all over the Western Hemisphere and beyond.
During her time with the national team she has played in Argentina, Columbia, China, Italy, Canada, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Traveling with the national team in United States got Alicart and several of her teammates noticed by college coaches.
While she was told she had the potential to play in college, since she was still in high school she had to wait. Alicart spent five months in Canada with the idea of playing softball and finishing school so she could attend college in America. Unfortunately she ended up only playing softball and had to return home to finish school.
When it came time to go to school, Alicart didn’t take her allotted recruiting trips like most American students. Instead, the Venezuelan Softball Federation told her she was going to Thomas University in Thomasville, Ga. They also told her that after spending a year at Thomas she was going to transfer to Indiana University where Mickey Dean, the pitching coach for the Venezuelan National Team, was an assistant coach.
“They tell you where you’re going but I was fine with it because it was free,” Alicart noted. “I was happy to go wherever because they were getting me a scholarship.”
Most student-athletes would like to have a say in where they go to school and compete, but not for Alicart. All she wanted was the opportunity to go to school in American and play softball so the transition to her home town of nearly half a million people to Thomasville with its population of just over 18,000 was fine with her.
“I knew a little bit of American culture from traveling, but I didn’t know that much English when I got here so it was pretty hard,” she said. “There wasn’t much to do there (Thomasville), but there were good people there that I appreciated. They made you want to feel at home and made sure you’re happy and that’s one of the reasons why I made it.”
Everything was great for Alicart at Thomas. She was in the top five nationally in numerous offensive categories, earned All-America honors her first year and helped the team to the NAIA National Championship. However, there was just one snag in her plan. After the 2004 season Dean took a job at Longwood and Alicart was left without a Division I school.
Fortunately, Thomas head coach Vincent Dima told the Florida State coaches about this outstanding shortstop he had that was in search of a school. In the summer of 2004 associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Louie Berndt was in California watching Veronica Wootson play when she got to see Alicart in action. Because FSU’s scholarships had all been handed out for the 2004-05 season, Berndt had to convince Alicart to stay one more year at Thomas before she came to FSU.
With all the expectations placed on her, Alicart lived up to her billing last year as she earned NFCA First-Team All-Southeast Region and First-Team All-ACC accolades. She reset the FSU home run record with 12 dingers while her 19 doubles also established a new school mark. Alicart was the top hitter in the conference during league games with a .441 batting average and 26 RBIs.
Beyond the accolades she has received on the softball field, coming to the United States has given her something more important: an American education.
“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t playing softball,” Alicart admitted. “My parents don’t have the income to bring me here and pay for school so if it wasn’t for softball I would still be at home.”
Alicart is on track to graduate with a degree in criminology. Because of the economic situation back home she said she would like to stay and work in the United States for a while after she graduates, but is willing to return home. Her immediate plans after finishing her collegiate softball career are to continue playing with the Venezuelan National Team with the goal of qualifying for the 2008 Summer Olympics.