The answering message on Ghazaleh Sailors’ cell phone says it all about her: “I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m done playing baseball. Have a great day.”
Ghazaleh, pronounced Oz-a-lay, is a girl who loves to play baseball. The senior at San Marcos has played ball for the Royals’ junior varsity team the last two years.
Today, she’s wearing the red, white and blue of her country as a member of the United States Women’s National Team. The squad is headed to Venezuela, where it will compete in the International Baseball Federation World Cup, Aug. 12-22.
Ghazaleh was one of the 21 players selected for the national team from a four-day trials period at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
The team is coached by Don Freeman, a longtime high school coach who has worked with Major League Baseball and USA Baseball.
The U.S. begins group play in the World Cup against Japan on Thursday in the city of Maracay. The Americans also will play Cuba, Puerto Rico and South Korea in Group B.
Group A consists of Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipai, Hong Kong, Netherlands and Venezuela. The finals are scheduled for Aug. 22 in Caracas.
The U.S. won a bronze medal in the last World Cup in 2008. Nine players return from the that squad.
Ghazaleh, a third baseman and pitcher with the nickname “Oz,” is thrilled about the opportunity to play for the U.S.
“I’m extremely excited about the experience,” she said. “Representing my country is amazing and an experience that I’ve always dreamed about.”
Ghazaleh said the tryouts marked the first time she played baseball with other girls.
“I chose baseball over softball because I love this game, it runs through my veins. I have seen the other girls in this sport who have died down and gave in to softball,” she said.
There wasn’t anything that was going to discourage her from following her passion, not even harassment from some of the guys, which she experienced at another school in the district. She said it got so bad “that I had no choice but to leave. But it really fueled my fire for this game I play.”
She transferred to San Marcos, where she was welcomed into the baseball program.
San Marcos baseball coach Rob Crawford noticed her passion for the game and her great desire to become a better ballplayer.
“Ghazaleh is a very determined player and person,” Crawford said. “ She works hard and is very focused on getting to the highest level she can possibly attain. I wish I had all my players with the kind of heart I see in her.”
She appreciates how her coaches and teammates have supported her on and off the diamond.
“San Marcos has been amazing, and I really want to give props to my teammates and my coaches, my head coach Rob Crawford and my trainer Kristyn Miller, who is also the girls basketball coach,” Ghazaleh said.
Miller was an assistant coach with the freshman baseball team at San Marcos in 2008 and that convinced Ghazaleh she was in the right place.
“Miller wore the San Marcos baseball uniform before I did and it really broke barriers,” Ghazaleh said. “She’s like the most inspirational person I’ve ever met. She’s a big part of the reason I’m here.”
Ghazaleh said she trains with Miller three times a week.
Because of her work ethic and ability, Crawford wasn’t surprised to see Ghazaleh get picked to play for the national team.
“At 5-3 and being female, many would see that as a disadvantage in a sport dominated by males,” he said. “Ghazaleh uses those ‘obstacles’ as motivation for improving and playing baseball. She loves the challenge, so I am not surprised at all at her selection to the National team. She will be a tremendous asset as an infielder, a hitter that will execute effectively, and possibly as a pitcher that will come into a game and throw strikes, and compete with every pitch.”
Ghazaleh played well in a series of tuneup games before the World Cup. In the first game, a 14-10 win over the Australia national team, she started at third base and went 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored. She made a relief appearance in a 4-2 win over an Australian travel team, pitching one scoreless inning with one strikeout. In the final game on Monday, she went 3-for-3 with a double and two singles in a 16-2 rout.
The daughter of Rob and Haleh Sailors, Ghazaleh gets her passion of the game from her father, who played ball back in his home state of Nebraska.
“He’s the one who takes me out to batting practice and hits ground balls to me every day,” she said.
She started playing baseball in the Santa Barbara Pony League and moved on to play for a travel club team called the Scorpions when she was in the fifth grade.
Ghazaleh’s name comes from her mother’s Iranian heritage. In Farsi, the name means gazelle.
She has an older brother, Hajir, who excels in the performing arts. He was a member of the award-winning San Marcos Madrigals singing ensemble and is currently attending Mannes College of Music in New York. Ghazaleh said his goal is to be a professional opera singer.
Ghazaleh’s brother and father plan to see her play in Venezuela. Just by coincidence, they are on a backpacking trip through South America.
Ghazaleh Sailors won’t be taking any phone calls for the next few days. But if you listen to her voice mail message, you’ll know what she’s doing.