STORRS, Conn. - Last November after the International Olympic Committee added softball to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, UConn softball's Reese Guevarra spoke with her father, James, with big plans in mind.
One year later, Guevarra sets out on a plane from Newark Liberty International Airport to join her teammates on the Philippine National Team for the Asian Championships in Taiwan.
"A year ago, he wanted to find a way to get me on the Philippine National Team. Both my parents are Filipino and my mom was born there, so I could get a passport and be considered a citizen," said Guevarra.
Just like that, the plan was ready to be executed. Her father contacted the coaches of the team, Reese sent a skills video and then she was Oklahoma-bound this past July for her tryout with the team a week prior to the World Cup of Softball.
Guevarra, 18, made the team - the youngest player on the roster, which ranges up to 32. Not only an impressive accomplishment in its own right, but she will start in right field for the Philippines.
"It's just an awesome experience because I'm learning so much from them and I'm the baby on the team," said Guevarra. "I'm absorbing all the new softball knowledge and love getting better every day."
A top-four finish in the Asian Championships earns the Philippines a berth in the World Championships - where a top-six finish would qualify it for the 2020 Olympics and make Guevarra's dream come true.
"I didn't think I was good enough," said Guevarra about when her dad proposed the idea. "It was a great opportunity though, and if there is a chance to play in the Olympics, I should take it. That would be the height of my softball career."
Guevarra will be out of the country for a little more than two weeks, flying first to the Philippines for practice before traveling to Taiwan. At this point, she has already played in the World Cup of Softball and Canada Cup with the national team - as well as the World Championships with the junior team.
Her parents, James and Mico, will be in attendance for the tournament - deciding to go overseas for Thanksgiving to watch their daughter play.
A freshman outfielder from New City, N.Y., she has only been to the Philippines on one occasion this past summer for a family vacation. Guevarra still has ties with distant cousins and family friends on both sides of the family.
There are other Filipino-Americans on the team and English is commonly spoken, but visiting the country itself provided many different experiences.
"The culture is completely different - the food, the language (Tagalog); sometimes it's hard to understand. Getting in touch with my roots was a cool experience," said Guevarra. "I grew up in America and had no idea what my culture was before that."
Among those experiences was watching her cousins play with a wild boar outside of their homes, giving her a small taste of the relaxed nature of the Filipino culture.
Despite such little time to get accustomed to the Philippine National Team, between school and other obligations, Guevarra has had no problems getting adjusted to her teammates and finding a chemistry with them.
"I think it's just a cultural thing; we all get along so well," said Guevarra. "I was nervous first meeting the team when I tried out in Oklahoma, that I wouldn't make friends because of the age difference. Then I got there and it was like family."
Her experience with the team is not unlike her experience with UConn, as she approaches the halfway point of her freshman year.
"In the beginning, it was tough, but I got used to college and found a routine. I just utilize all my resources on campus - tutors, review sessions, study halls...it has really helped me," said Guevarra.
— UConn Softball (@UConnSoftball) November 22, 2017
Along with the support she has received from the UConn coaching staff when it comes to her softball skills, these opportunities - Division I softball and international competition - are also helping to develop Guevarra as a person.
"All these experiences are helping to make me a better person. I have learned to communicate with people on the field and that ability carries over into my social life," said Guevarra. "It is teaching me that hard work produces good results."
If the Philippines finishes in the top four of the Asian Games, Guevarra's next engagement with the team will be in the summer of 2018 leading up to the World Championships - which will take place in August in Japan.
In one year since that talk with her father, Guevarra has earned her spot on the Philippines National Team. Come this time in 2018, she hopes to be known as an Olympian.
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