Q&A with Croatia in Bellalete

Q&A with Croatia in Bellalete
As a by softball girls for softball girls company, the chance to work together with former college softball player, and LMU coach Marina Vitalich, Long Beach State pitcher Addy Kostrenchich, and the Croatia softball federation, was a highlight this year for us, and a really fun project. In the jersey design, we combined tradition with modern elements to create three uniforms, reds, whites and charcoals.  The team played at the Womens European championships in July. We had the chance to do a Q&A with Marina and Addy about their journey in softball, traveling to Croatia, and being part of the design process with us... 
Bellalete: When did you first fall in love with softball? 
Addy: I fell in love with softball before I ever started playing. I have 3 order sisters and was “forced” to go to the field every Saturday but by the time I turned 5 I couldn’t wait to be on a team of my own. But it wasn’t until I started seeing a lot of my friends say “I don’t want to go every weekend” and knowing that I couldn’t wait to be there was when I really knew that I was in love with the sport. 
Marina: We have always been a sports loving family and baseball was absolutely a favorite.  My grandpa, dad, and uncle all played so naturally when I was old enough around 5 years old or so, my dad asked if I wanted to learn how to play softball.  That day we started throwing the ball around and playing catch and ever since then I’ve loved it.  I started pitching not long after and never looked back.
Bellalete: How do you stay inspired to keep working your hardest? 
Addy: My college coaches call it having a “why” but knowing the reason that you are still in this sport is what has made it so important to you. For me, my why is because I remember that kid I once was who worked every day to get to where I am now and I want to show other kids that with hard work you can get here too.Just reminding myself of my why every day on those early mornings inspires me. 

Marina: It hasn’t always been easy, there were definitely times when I found it difficult to stay motivated and keeping showing up everyday but I think about that little girl and all the really cool things she’s got to experience in between because of softball.  Without the hard work and the difficult days none of it would have been possible.  Since working with younger girls and giving lessons, I’ve also found a new motivation to help the younger generation of softball players.  I was once their age and so willing to learn that I want to be able to help them and give back to the sport that has given me so much.

Bellalete: What is your favorite softball memory and/or accomplishment? 
Addy: I’ve had a lot of memories throughout my years but I still remember when my 8u all star team made it to states. I can remember the parade and games and I think that memory is what made me so invested in this sport. 

Marina: I’ve had many great memories and accomplishments during my 20 year softball career but I think the greatest one I had came during my sophomore year of college at George Mason University.  After the season I was named the Atlantic-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year, which is something I’m very proud of since George Mason has never had another Pitcher of the Year.

Bellalete: How did you get to be part of the Croatia softball team?
Addy: One day at a pitching lesson I ran into my now teammate Marina 
who put me in contact with the coaches. My dad helped me with all the paperwork process but I was able to play with the Junior national team the next summer and have worked up to playing with the National team the past 2 summers and loved every second of it. 

Marina: I played travel softball for the Firecrackers organization growing up and during one of our workouts a woman named Juliana came over to talk to my dad, sister and me.  She played for the Columbian National team and asked if we had ever had any interest in playing internationally.  We didn’t even know where to start but she asked what our nationalities were , which are Croatian and Salvadoran, and told us to reach out to both softball federations to see if they would be interested in having us play with them.  Croatia was the only one to respond and we worked with the coaches to start the next steps of applying for citizenship in which we would need to contact the consulate and also receive a letter of support from the Croatian Softball Federation as well Croatian Olympic Committee.  It took about a year and a half for the process to be complete and for us to receive our passports.

Bellalete: What are your favorite and the most impactful parts for you about this opportunity?
Addy: My favorite part about playing for this team is the girls. Although the sport is growing in these countries it is still very small. These girls that are selected to play are just grateful that they get to play at all, they don’t care about having all the high grade equipment or the nicest fields they are simply there for the love of the game. Coming from the pressure of American fast pitch it’s a breath of fresh air to be around these young women who are there just for the joy. The most impactful parts of these experiences is just being able to meet people from around the world and learn all new cultures as I travel with the team. Knowing that some of them continue playing just because they believe that one day they can get to my level is such an honor and it is an honor to be able to play with/against all of them.  

Marina: Being able to play for the Croatian National team has been quite the opportunity that I’m so fortunate to have experienced.  It’s hard to pick only a few as I have played with this team for almost seven years now but I think overall, it gave me a new perspective on the sport I’ve been playing since I was five years old.  For awhile, softball seemed almost like a business with all the recruiting and then playing in college and it basically becoming a full-time job with all the time and energy commitments.  I won’t lie that I got really drained at one point but playing with this team re-sparked that fun aspect of softball that I first fell in love with.  Softball isn’t that popular of a sport in Croatia, you can hardly find the right equipment and often times they have to have it shipped from other countries.  The girls and women that I’ve played with have never worried about the material aspect of the game but they just love playing the game. 

Bellalete: How did you like being part of the design process?
Addy: Designing the uniforms was just another way for Marina and I to leave our marks on this organization. We have given a lot to them but they have given us so many memories that I am forever grateful for. Marina and I were very in sync with our design ideas and it made this process very easy and I am super excited with what they look like. This team is so grateful to have these new uniforms as they had all the junior and the national team sharing one set of uniforms before this. The donors and families have helped out so much and being part of bringing them this opportunity was amazing! 

Marina: It was quite an honor to be able to work with Bellalete to design the new uniforms for the Croatian team.  We wanted to create something that was representative of Croatia and it was really neat to have the Bellalete designers bring our ideas to life.  These new uniforms are beautifully modern and going to be worn by athletes that are so proud and hold a lot of love for their country. It was only natural to tie those aspects together by adding the Croatian flag, coat of arms, and the checkers that appear on the coat of arms.  There really is no feeling to describe it but the feelings that come close are pride and appreciation.

Bellalete: What do you like the most about your Bellalete softball uniforms?
Addy: Bellalete is a very unique company right now and I think that the gear has successfully done a lot for softball. I love just how comfortable everything is because while the looks are great many jerseys become very heavy and bulky, especially for pitchers. The lightweight material makes it super easy to play in as well as the durability of the material makes it well worth it.
Marina: I think what I like most about the Bellalete gear is that it’s super comfortable and lightweight albeit sturdy and durable.  The fabrics are totally breathable and I’m looking forward to see how it feels in the hot Europe heat.  I also love that from a design standpoint, it’s very representative of Croatia and we have three different designs to mix and match to make the ultimate combinations.

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