Unrelenting Dream Leads Emily Carosone, Italy To 2020 Olympics
It took three years for Emily Carosone to see her Olympic dream become her reality with the Italian national softball team. Three years of endless paperwork, a lack of answers and thoughts about whether or not she'd ever have the chance to play for Italy—the country of origin of her late paternal grandfather—left her wondering if it was even meant to be.
"There were multiple times when I didn't think it was going to happen," Carosone told Softball America in a phone interview. "Everyone on the Italian side of my family is deceased besides my dad and his sister, so figuring out birthdays and marriages was extremely difficult because no one knew where the papers were."
In time, however, Carosone was able to find out all the information she needed to earn dual citizenship. And for the former Auburn University star, it all came together just in time for the most important tournament the Italians have played in since the Azzurre squad last advanced to the Olympic Games in 2004: the Europe/Africa Olympic qualifier, which took place last week in the Netherlands.
But for Carosone, a National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) veteran who is currently in the midst of her fourth season in the professional softball league, the news that she was approved to play for Italy in the Olympic qualifier couldn't have come at a more stressful time. Just one day earlier, she was traded from the NPF's Cleveland Comets to the USSSA Pride.
"I hadn't even played a game with the Pride yet, and I had to say I was leaving for Italy to help them qualify," Carosone stated. "They were awesome about it and super patient. They understood that it was a big opportunity and something that had been in progress for quite some time."
After getting the approval of her new organization, Carosone went to Miami to pick up her Italian passport and got on a flight to Italy later that night.
"I was sitting at the airport and I was nervous and full of doubt," Carosone recalled. "I called my older sister and told her how nervous I was. She reassured me and took away some of the anxiety I was feeling before getting on my flight to Europe. I hadn't met any of the girls I was going to be playing with. This was a huge tournament that I was going to be stepping in for."
After being calmed down by her sister, Carosone flew to Italy to begin her journey with her new team. She passed her physical upon arrival and soon after, met up and practiced with her new teammates before the team left together for the Netherlands.
"I had been with the team for maybe three or four days before the qualifier began," Carosone said. "I was very nervous about how the chemistry would be with me coming to the team so late, but when I got there, my teammates welcomed me with open arms. We all just meshed so well together."
Following their arrival in the Netherlands for the start of the Olympic qualifier, Carosone and her teammates had one goal in mind, and that was to win all five games they had on their schedule. If they could do that, they would guarantee their spot in the Tokyo Olympics, which will be the first Summer Games to feature softball since 2008.
"We went in with the mentality that we were not going to lose a single game," Carosone said. "We had five games to play and we had five games to win, and that was the end of it."
And that is just what the Italian squad did in the Netherlands last week. The European champions swept through the tournament and took down Great Britain, 5–0, in the qualifier's final game to punch their tickets to Tokyo.
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"I just wanted to play a small role in it and help however I could," said Carosone, who had two hits for Italy in the final against Great Britain. "I wanted to win for those girls. You could see how much passion they have and how much they wanted to be there, and we came out on top because of how relentless they are. We're Italian, so we're stubborn and we weren't going down without a fight."
More than anything, however, Carosone wanted to win for her late grandfather, who was a native of Abruzzo, Italy. He passed away when she was a junior in high school.
"After we beat Great Britain, I thought about my grandfather and how proud he would have been," Carosone said. "We were always really close. He was my biggest softball fan."
Now that Italy's ticket is punched for Tokyo, Carosone is determined to continue to improve her game and ready herself for international softball's biggest stage next summer. Until then, her plan is to return to Italy in the months following the conclusion of the NPF season to continue to train with her national team, before returning to the United States to play in the NPF for the start of the 2020 campaign. Then, she will be off to Tokyo for the Olympics.
"It's a surreal feeling," Carosone said. "I have always been proud to be Italian. I'm proud of my last name and where I come from. I'm still in awe that this is actually happening."