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Anter Secures Dual Citizenship, Spot on Italian Softball Team

This summer Natalie Anter -- at least initially -- will have to find another way to communicate effectively. Her bat, her glove and her catcher's mask all will come in handy as she assumes a starting position on the Italian National Softball Team.

Anter was asked to join the Italian team after Coach Judi Garman saw her play in a showcase tournament in Canada. Garman, who tried to recruit Anter to play at Cal State-Fullerton, said she's looking forward to Anter's contribution to the Italian team.

"We're always looking for American-Italians," said Garman from her home in Livorno, Italy. "We're not going to be strong enough without them. We know we need those players."

Anter and her teammates -- only one other will be from the United States -- will travel to Saskatoon, Canada in July to participate in the World Championships, which start July 26. There, the Italian squad will compete for one of five spots for the 2004 Olympics, which will be held in September in Athens, Greece.

Fortunately for Anter, her grandparents are Italian, making dual citizenship practical. However, the $1,800 citizenship process was a little less than exciting for Anter, who had to wait several months to receive her papers before she could discover her new home in Italy.

Base pay for softball players in Italy is about $1,000 a month, with room for the athletes to earn more depending upon how far their abilities and talents will take them on the playing field.

Anter said she was sold and that for now, the drawbacks seem minimal. The Italian team is flying her back to finish her last semester in August. She expects to graduate in December with a major in communications and a minor in history.

"It's an exciting opportunity that if I didn't take I'd regret it for the rest of my life," Anter said. "I get to continue to play softball, I get to travel and I get to go to the Olympics."

Anter said she had considered trying the U.S. team but decided against it.

"It was just not working out," Anter said. "Italy seemed like the better option for me as far as getting to travel and getting to play."

Anter ended her eligibility with North Carolina's softball team last season. In four years as a starting catcher, Anter was named to the all-conference and all-region teams each year. She batted .335 and led the team with 15 home runs -- a statistic that assistant coach Lisa Navas says prompted several pitchers to walk Anter.

"We had some goals this year to see how many times she could walk because people weren't giving her good pitches," Navas said. "We took a negative and made it into a positive."

In 167 at-bats, Anter walked 42 times last season.

Navas said she thinks Anter would have been an All-American if the team had advanced further during the season. UNC lost in the ACC championship game.

"Natalie is really irreplaceable at Carolina," Navas said. "It's very seldom you have a kid who is four-time all-conference, four-time all-region. We were lucky to have her at Carolina."

But should the softball dream be short-lived, Anter can do her talking through her degrees.

"I'm afraid I won't like it and I'll have to come home and get a real job," Anter said. "If I came home, I'd get a job somewhere in the entertainment field."

The Sports Editor can be reached at

sports@unc.edu.

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