March 29, 2016
Gainesville, FL – Santa Fe assistant coach Karla Claudio has played at the highest levels of every division she's been a part of, from the NJCAA, to the NCAA, to the Puerto Rican National Team. Now she can add professional fastpitch softball player to her resume.
On Wednesday March 30, Claudio will embark on a journey that will take her to Caronno Pertusella, Italy where she will star in her first game on Saturday, April 2 for the Caronno Rheavendors with fellow Puerto Rican National Team teammate Quianna Diaz
Claudio and Diaz are just the second and third Puerto Rican players to ever play in the European professional leagues.
"I am unbelievably happy to be one of the few players that gets the privilege to continue to play the sport after college," said Claudio. "Playing softball in Europe was always a dream of mine and to see it come true is truly amazing. Usually a lot of players get ready to stop playing after college ball is over so I just hope this makes other players work that much harder, especially our players. I'm excited to learn more about the sport and looking forward to coming back next fall and sharing my experience and my knowledge with the girls."
The Italian regular season will continue through the beginning of July, with the playoffs to follow.
Coach Chris Ahern doesn't take for granted the impact that Claudio has had on Santa Fe as a player and a coach.
"We consider ourselves lucky in many ways to have had Karla be part of our Saints family," explained Ahern. "As an All American player here, she grew so much as a person, as a player and as a teammate during those two years. When she left to continue on as a USF Bull, we were sad to see her go but very happy that she had come so far as to be able to heading off to such a quality University to continue her education, as well as to play Division I softball. I know it was a dream of hers growing up, and we got a lot of satisfaction in being able to play a part in preparing her for that next step. She worked very hard both in the classroom and on the field, and that effort paid off. In fact, I am sure that she is the first softball player from the island of Puerto Rico to not just come here to play, but to continue on to and graduate from a Division I school, while continuing on softball scholarship. That is a tremendous achievement for anyone, but more so and especially because English is not her first language."
Part of her contract with the Italian professional team is that she can leave in July to compete with the Puerto Rican National Team in Vancouver, B.C.
"All throughout she has proudly continued to represent Puerto Rico at the international level, and as Captain of the team, she adds to that team a new level of experience, maturity and understanding about team cohesion," Ahern said.
After her first season professionally, Claudio will return in the fall to Santa Fe to resume her role as assistant coach, one she has embraced due to her passion for teaching and instructing the younger generation of up and coming softball players.
"As she prepares to leave us, albeit temporarily, to take yet another step in her illustrious career, we are both sad to see her go but thrilled at her new opportunity, and at the fact that she will be rejoining us in the fall," said Ahern. "We wish her nothing both continued success in this amazing journey she has been on and are grateful for her help past and yet to come."
Not only is Claudio starting her professional career in Europe, but recently, in her home country of Puerto Rico, Parque de Ciudad Masso in San Lorenzo named their league for 9-18 year olds after her, titled, "Liga Samaritana de Softball Karla Claudio".
"To have the league that taught me everything I know about the sport be named after me was a true honor", said Claudio. "I played in this league since I first stepped on a softball field 12 years ago and that is what made it so special. It was a beautiful ceremony and to see how excited and happy the girls were to be able to play in the league was beyond inspiring."
For complete schedules, stats, and more information please visit www.santafesaints.com.