She didn’t venture far from her home in Nicktown to play collegiate softball at Mount Aloysius College, so when an opportunity arose to play the game she loves internationally, Jenna Bobik took it without thinking twice about it.
Four years later, and having made trips to seven countries through the endeavor, the 2010 graduate of Northern Cambria High School still competes for the USA Athletes International softball team.
In fact, Bobik just returned from her latest voyage with USAAI, one that took her more than 2,000 miles away from Nicktown to the tropical island of Aruba for the 2014 Aruba Friendship Series from June 7 to 14.
There, Bobik played third base and outfield in five games against the Aruban national team.
“I don’t know of any other kids from Northern Cambria who got to do something like this, so it’s definitely been a really cool experience,” said Bobik. “I never thought I’d be able to wear the USA uniform once, let alone for five years straight. It’s really changed my life.”
Established in 1992, USAAI is a nonprofit organization that gives amateur athletes in 15 sports a vehicle to compete abroad. USAAI athletes finance their trips solely through fundraisers.
Bobik initially was recruited in a class of 15 standouts to play for the USAAI team in the midst of her stint with Pittsburgh Metro Express, a traveling amateur squad that competes primarily during the summer.
Bobik made her debut with USAAI in Grosseto, Italy, in July 2010, where she helped her team place second in the Grosseto Invitational.
A year later, Bobik traveled to Sydney, Australia, to play in the Blacktown Softball Tournament. Again, Bobik helped guide the USAAI team to a second-place finish, this time doing so on the field that hosted softball games during the 2000 Summer Olympics.
“I played some of my best games in Australia,” said Bobik, who’s currently enrolled in Gannon University’s physical therapy doctorate program. “It felt good to play well and prove wrong some of the coaches that didn’t previously believe in me. Not every coach is going to believe in every player, and girls from small towns like me aren’t always encouraged to try to go so far. But that just shows that if you follow your dreams, and you believe in yourself, you can reach your goals.”
Bobik made two more life-changing trips in the next two years, traveling with the USAAI team to the Czech Republic in 2012 before making an appearance with the team in Holland in 2013.
The five years she’s spent with the USAAI team not only helped Bobik grow culturally, it also aided in forming several galvanizing bonds with teammates and counterparts.
“It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to play with the same teammates for five straight years and do it all over the world,” said Bobik. “I’ve made close friends on the team, and I’ve also become friends with players from other countries. It’s really been something different and fun and something that I’ve made lasting friendships through.”
Because of Bobik’s heavy workload at Gannon, she admitted that she’s not certain that she can travel with the team to the upcoming Curacao Friendship Series in Curacao, off the coast of Venezuela.
“I really think going to Curacao is another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I want to be a part of, but since school is my No. 1 priority, I can’t make that decision yet,” said Bobik.
But even if she can’t make it to Curacao, Bobik said she will remain a part of the team, whether it’s as a coach or a player.
She still keeps in contact with former USAAI coach Dale Lehnhoff, and Bobik said if she can’t get a spot on the USAAI team, she’ll still have the option to play in Holland or in the Czech Republic.
“After the Holland trip last year one of the tour managers contacted me and asked me if I wanted to coach,” said Bobik. “I agreed to do it, but the trip got canceled at the last second.
“School is definitely the most important thing to me, and I have to make that my first priority. But even after grad school I’ll have opportunities to play in other countries, so I’m not worried about getting left out.”
Bobik’s skills aren’t limited to the softball diamond.
A blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Bobik placed second in the women’s bantamweight white belt division at the NAGA Pittsburgh Grappling Championship in April. Earlier in the day, Bobik took third in the women’s no-gi lightweight beginner division.
Last October, Bobik prepared for her first amateur MMA bout, which was slated to take place at Xtreme Fight Events 27 at Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack last October.
The bout, however, was canceled when Bobik’s opponent, Katie Taylor, pulled out for undisclosed reasons.