Photo: File Photo
Elena Leon, originally from West Des Moines, graduated from Drake in 2010 with a degree in biology, but she also left a legacy as one of the best softball players in Drake history. Leon ranks in the Drake top 10 in five career categories including runs, doubles, home runs, stolen bases and walks. She broke the all-time Drake home run record with her 26th career home run in the 2010 season, and she also ranks in the top 10 in six season categories.
Leon started for four years at shortstop and third base for the Bulldogs and was a true student of the game. Although her career ended at Drake, she wasn’t ready to give up softball for good. Leon now plays for Olympic Haarlem, which is part of the Hoofdklasse, a professional softball league in the Netherlands, where she will live until October.
Leon spoke with The Times-Delphic via Skype to describe her Dutch experience. The season started on April 16.
Times-Delphic: What are you most excited about?
Elena Leon: I’m most looking forward to competing again. I didn’t think I’d miss it as much when the season ended last year, but I do, especially when I’m watching the Drake games on GameTracker. I’m also looking forward to traveling — what more could I ask for? I get to play softball and travel Europe.
TD: How do you think Drake prepared you for Dutch softball?
EL: I think I left Drake a better softball player both physically and mentally. I feel well prepared to be competitive in this league. The practices are very similar to Drake’s or any other D-I program. Softball here is more like a hobby; the girls love to play the game, but don’t have the opportunity to play for their schools like we do at home.
TD: Are you experiencing any culture shock?
EL: Some cultural differences have been a bit shocking. The Dutch are very laidback, so activities like eating dinner take a lot longer. Another shock is all the bicycles. They are a main mode of transportation; the U.S. needs to think about jumping on this bandwagon. There hasn’t been much shock softball-wise, but I think that has a lot to do with having an American coach.
TD: How is softball different compared to your experience at Drake?
EL: The game is pretty much the same as it is in America, although the field is longer so there are a lot more triples than home runs. Team chemistry is a little different — the language and cultural differences factor into that — and also the fact that we don’t see each other every day like we did at Drake, but I think the chemistry will continue to grow.
TD: What are your goals for the upcoming season?
EL: My goal is just to try and make the biggest impact I can for the team. I’m not too nervous about playing, just excited for the first game. My goal for abroad is to come back with a better understanding of the European culture and hopefully grow as a person while I’m here.
TD: How do you feel about missing Drake Relays?
EL: Going to the track events was always my favorite. Being able to watch big-time names run and throw was always a treat. The Drake Relays is such a rich tradition for Drake and Des Moines. I think it’s great that so many people come back year after year.
Leon’s ultimate goal is to reach the Holland Series and then the European Cup, which will be held in Ronchi dei Legionari, Italy, in July.