Local softball standout Savannah Gatewood has had a long journey with the sport she loves and is yet to play in her high school senior season.
Gatewood, a Cal Baptist softball commit, is slated to join the U.S. travel ball team in August at the Copa Amistad Tournament, where she’ll compete against the Cuban Junior National Olympic and Olympic National teams.
The West Ranch Wildcat has come a long way but wasn’t sure where her athletic career or even her life was headed four years ago when doctors found a tumor in her left leg.
Gatewood initially thought her softball dreams were over when she got the news but is forever grateful to the doctors at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles who removed her benign tumor. After being hospitalized at a young age, Gatewood learned to be resilient and felt empowered to carry on and continue her dreams on the diamond.
The road back to softball proved to be yet another difficult path for the future Lancer.
“When I was cleared to play, I was scared, nervous and anxious,” Gatewood wrote. “Mentally, coming back to play was one of the hardest challenges I ever had to face. I was scared that I wouldn’t have the skill and be good enough to compete. Physically, I had numbness and tingling in my foot and leg. I was anxious that I would be in pain or injure myself.”
However, Gatewood never quit. She kept up her work and rehabilitation, and after being told by doctors she could return to softball in six to nine months, she made it back in four.
The Wildcat was honored to be selected to play in the Copa Amistad Tournament and will also aid in the Empowering Leadership in Latina Athletes mission.
“The reason for my travel to Cuba isn’t about me but my intention to highlight the mission of ELLA in helping to bridge the gaps between our two countries through softball,” Gatewood wrote. “ELLA supports young Latinas to become leaders of tomorrow through sports and academic excellence.”
Gatewood has seen a lack of availability for sporting goods in Cuba and has collected softball equipment to donate to the Cuban players.
The team, comprised of players from all over the country, will meet on Monday for the first time in Burbank before heading to Havana, where the games will begin the following day.
Gatewood is excited to meet her new teammates and take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“When they told me I was chosen to play for Copa Amistad, I was excited, thankful and honored to be able to represent the U.S. in softball,” she wrote. “I am proud to be involved in this mission and feel driven by its purpose. I know it will challenge me in new ways and help me to be a more well-rounded person.”
The U.S. team and head coach Manny Travieso head to Havana on Tuesday for the weeklong tournament and good-will trip.