Softball a big hit for foreign exchange student at Placer High

By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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When Marie Schultes first told her parents she was going to play for the Placer High School softball team, her parents had to Google the sport to understand what she was talking about.

Schultes, a 17-year-old German foreign exchange student studying in Auburn, had never picked up a glove before she joined the Lady Hillmen. In fact, her teammates had to teach her how to put on a mitt.

Schultes, who has never been involved in any sport other than equestrian horseback riding in her home of Düsseldorf, has come a long way since the middle of February when she first took up softball.

At the time, she didn’t understand the rules of the game.

Schultes had previously gone to a Sacramento River Cats minor league baseball game but she said she “didn’t know what was going on and liked watching the guys.”

Now, Schultes, who considers hitting her favorite aspect of softball, is getting the hang of swinging the bat and can hit line drives to the outfield.

“She’s doing really well for never having played before,” said Placer coach Aaron Rubio. “She’s getting her swing down and starting to put a little power behind it.”

She’s also becoming a solid first baseman.

Schultes got her first career at-bat during a recent tournament game. While she was a little nervous by how fast the opposing pitcher was tossing the ball, she was thrilled to be taking some swings even though she struck out.

“All of the girls cheered for me,” she said of her time at the plate. “They made it really easy for me.” 

Schultes said she wouldn’t be able to do it all without the help of coaches Doug Menefee, Christine Pierce, Rubio and all of her teammates.

“I really enjoy that the coaches made it possible for me to play,” she said. “I’d also like to thank the team moms. It’s so much fun playing softball.”

Before the season started, parents donated cleats, pants and a team jacket to Schultes to help her become a part of the team. 

Schultes has even taught the Lady Hillmen a German routine that the team chants in unison during games.

“We all cheer ‘Schlag es! Schlag es! Schlag es!’ It’s awesome,” said teammate Abbie Strickland of the cheer which translates to hit it.

Schultes’ friends back in Deutschland are unfamiliar with softball, too. But she said they’re intrigued when they’ve watched videos Schultes has sent them even though they don’t understand what’s happening on the field.

Schultes is living with host parents Gail and Mike Pittner of Auburn.

After watching Major League Baseball on television the other day, she said she hopes to make it down to San Francisco to catch a Giants game — especially now that she’s starting to comprehend the ballgame.

Schultes has already traveled to Monterey, Pismo Beach and Hawaii. She plans on going on more trips soon.

She said that America schools seem a little easier than the ones in Germany because she gets to take electives, such as choir. She also said in her home country students aren’t allowed to take fun classes and have to stick to straight forward academic classes.

Along with choir, Schultes is studying government, statistics and English at Placer. She knew some English before coming to America, but mostly British English. She said her language skills have improved since she first got to the Golden State on Aug. 1.

While Schultes is a senior, she won’t graduate for two more years. She said in Germany high school ends in 10th grade and now she is in the equivalent of junior college.   

Asked why she decided to take up softball, Schultes said, “I was interested in American sports.

“I wanted to learn an American sport. I met the nice coaches and they said I could be on the team.”

And the next time her parents search softball on Google, they might just wind up finding a story on their daughter.

Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel