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CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTEBOOK / SCOTT MILLER : Italy Proves to Be a Hit With Boyd

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Former Cal State Fullerton All-American pitcher Tiffany Boyd returned last weekend from her stint of playing softball in Italy.

Glad to be back in the land of “Home Improvement” and clear soda, Tiffany?

“It’s just terrible being back,” she groaned. “I want to go back.”

Quite a change for someone who had reservations about going in the first place. Boyd was invited to play in an Italian club league thanks to connections of Titan Coach Judi Garman a couple of months ago and, after heavy thinking, finally decided to go.

She ended up playing softball with a club team in Rimini, Italy, for about three weeks. Players from the Italian national team were scattered throughout the league. There were six on Boyd’s team.

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“Once I got over being homesick and could speak a little Italian, time flew,” she said. “If I could have two more weeks over there, I’d be in heaven.”

Boyd went to Italy toward the end of the season, making it in time for a tournament and the playoffs. She was recruited mainly for the playoffs, when teams are forced to play several games in only a few days. Rules allow one foreigner to pitch one game of a doubleheader but an Italian player must pitch the other game.

“It was kind of scary,” Boyd said. “The first tournament game I pitched, I faced 12 batters and struck out 11 and I was five for six (at the plate). It was my first glimpse of Italian softball and I thought, ‘What a joke.’

“But once the playoffs started, most of the teams could have played Division I (in the United States).”

Boyd’s expenses--air fare, hotel room and food--were paid by the Italians, plus she received a small salary. But the best part, Boyd said, was the people.

“The food was wonderful, but I really enjoyed the people,” she said. “They’re so different from the people in the United States. The first three days, there was no TV in the hotel room and I couldn’t find anybody who spoke English. But the people were so helpful. Everything there is so much more relaxed.

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“They don’t work to make that car payment, or to get that bigger house. They work so they can eat. Everything closes for 2 1/2 hours in the afternoon and you go take your nap.”

The biggest challenge Boyd said was driving.

“That was an experience,” she said. “My car here is an automatic and everything over there is a stick. They taught me to drive on a stick, but I was too scared. The streets are so narrow, there are no sidewalks, people park both ways on both sides of the street. . . .

“Some people drive scooters, and scooters, people and cars co-exist on the same street.”

One of Boyd’s teammates ended up loaning her a scooter to use.

Boyd plans to go back next summer, and she is considering playing this winter in New Zealand.

Until then, she can only sit in her classes at Fullerton and dream of distant, romantic lands. Although her eligibility is used up, she is finishing her kinesiology degree at Fullerton and expects to graduate in June.

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With plans to fix some problem areas in the Titan Sports Complex threatening to become reality now that Fullerton has some money in its clutches, the school’s spring sports coaches aren’t waiting for the beginning of winter to plot their strategy.

Construction is supposed to start soon on the drainage problems with the baseball and softball fields, and in anticipation of that, baseball Coach Augie Garrido moved fall practice up a week.

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The 440-yard track is supposed to be converted to a 400-meter track by Feb. 1, and track Coach John Elders already has scheduled three home meets.

“We’ll have the first home track meet in almost 20 years this spring,” Elders said. “It definitely will be the first Division I track meet here.”

Sal Rinella, Fullerton’s vice president for administration, said last week that the architectural firm that drew the wrong specifications has agreed to pay $49,900 toward the cost of fixing the track, and the school has come up with approximately $100,000 from its leftover construction account and facility-user fees to finance the repair work on the drainage problems involving the baseball and softball fields.

In anticipation of that, Garrido moved the start of fall baseball from Oct. 4 to Sept. 27.

“A week didn’t make that much difference for us,” assistant coach Rick Vanderhook said. “The weather is still the same. But in case they wanted to start on the field, we wanted to be done.”

Elders, meanwhile, has scheduled home track meets for Feb. 19 (a triangular against Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara), Feb. 26 (a triangular against UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara) and March 12 (the Titan Track and Field Invitational).

He figures his track program can make between $2,500 and $5,000 per year by hosting meets. Considering that his total men’s track budget is only $7,350--including money for scholarships--that could be a significant haul.

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When you have a shoestring budget, this is what you do: To get to the Arizona State Invitational on Friday, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams will load up in three vans on Thursday morning for the six-hour drive to Tempe.

They will get there Thursday afternoon, go for a run, get to the race on Friday morning and then drive home.

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