Arizona Ritchie, 23, has a foot in two worlds. She plays softball for both American college teams and the Israeli National Team, having received her dual citizenship to play in Israel during her third year at the University of Virginia.
Ritchie started playing baseball at the age of 4 and transitioned to softball at 12. As the captain of the softball team at Brooke Point High School in Stafford, Va., she was a letterwinner four years straight. Now, she attends George Washington University as a graduate student, working toward her master’s degree in environmental research policy when she’s not on the softball field as an infielder.
What do you enjoy about softball?
I love to compete. And I like doing it with people that I enjoy being around. People that pushed me and honestly, the sport was fun. You know? You should do something that you think is fun.
Have there been any moments in your softball career that you’re particularly proud of?
I’m really proud to be on the Israeli national team, and to be able to represent the Jewish people in general.
What led you to create the Jewish Student-Athletes club while you were attending the University of Virginia?
I started the club to create a space for Jewish athletes like myself, who might’ve been feeling disconnected from their Jewish identity, or those who wanted to find other young adults that shared a lot of their own experiences. It was also a nice avenue to connect with the greater Jewish community in the area.
How did you get involved with the Israeli national team?
I had a teammate when I was at UVA who was a senior when I was a freshman. So once she graduated, she got involved with Team Israel. And then I got connected to it through her.
Are there any major differences between playing softball in the U.S. and playing it in Israel?
I think the biggest one is that I don’t get to practice with my Israel teammates every day. So when we do get to practice together, it’s for about a week at a time, every six months. It’s really, really fun. And you kind of want to cherish those moments.
And then the other difference is just knowing that your teammates from Team Israel kind of had a similar life experience as you, being Jewish. Because where I grew up, I was one of the only Jewish kids in my public school. So just having a lot of Jewish people surrounding me was new.
When you’re not playing softball in Israel, have you gotten to travel the country?
I’ve only been to Israel one time so far, but yeah, we did get to travel. We saw the Western Wall, went to Jerusalem and went to the Dead Sea. I learned a lot of history while I was there.
How are you involved in the Jewish community on campus at GWU?
I attend services in my hometown and in the Hillel on campus. Week-to-week, I also meet up with … I guess you could call her a mentor. We study Judaism and go through different readings.
Do you have any plans for the future once you finish your graduate program at GWU? Would you want to play softball professionally or do something else?
I’m not totally sure yet. I plan on continuing with Israeli softball as long as I can. Until then, though, I’m just going to see what’s in front of me when I get there.