Stefania Abruscato was merely trying to draw interest of college softball coaches. But she ended up garnering the attention of people in Major League Baseball.
As a seventh-grader, Abruscato, who will be a freshman at Hauppauge High School this fall, was solely a baseball player. But with her father Tom Abruscato, a 21-year baseball coach at Clarke High School, becoming aware of how early softball players become recruited, the two decided to make a skills tape to send to the top softball schools in the country.
That video, which featured more baseball highlights than softball, ended up in the hands of officials from Major League Baseball’s Breakthrough Series, an event neither Stefania nor Tom were aware of. In January, the family received an email from an official with an application and a request to send another video for a selection committee.
Abruscato, 14, was one of 64 female baseball players, age 17 or below, invited to the Breakthrough Series to train and learn from former MLB players, executives and members of the Team USA women’s national baseball team.
“I couldn’t believe it at first,” Abruscato said. “Once I heard the news, I was pumped to actually get there and see what they would do with me with baseball, and meet new people from around the world.”
Abruscato, of Smithtown, spent four days in June in Vero Beach, Florida — also known as “Dodger Town” — with some of the top female baseball players in the world. As a catcher, Abruscato caught girls throwing greater than 80 miles per hour and the ability to throw a variety of pitches. She also recieved instructions from members of the national team to improve her hitting and defense.
Women’s baseball is played on a field with the same dimensions as MLB. The mound is 60 feet, 6 inches away and the bases are 90 feet apart. And Abruscato said she felt she was treated just as a MLB player.
“It was awesome,” Tom said. “I think I got teary eyed early on watching it.”
Abruscato grew up in a baseball household with her father as a coach. She and her older sister, Giuliana, played baseball as long as they can remember. Tom jokes the girls even had a bat in their hands as young as seven months old.
Because of the three-year age difference, Stefania and Giuliana played on separate baseball teams and were always the only girls on their travel teams. But they didn’t let that bother them, and Stefania credited Giuliana for giving her the confidence and drive to play with the boys.
“We all grew up around baseball and it started with [Giuliana],” Stefania aid. “A lot of boys in our school were like ‘You can’t play baseball’ and she showed them up and she actually made the team for baseball. I just grew up watching her and the rest of the family followed and we all grew up playing baseball.”
Stefania still occasionally plays baseball for a travel team coached by her father, but her primary focus is on softball. She is one of the top-ranked recruits in her class and is verbally committed to play at the University of Missouri.
She had thoughts about playing varsity baseball, but ultimately, she and her family decided to play softball, in part because she could play with her older sister. The first softball game Stefania ever played in was a varsity game in the seventh grade, with Guiliana on the team as a sophomore.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t think there’s anybody who thinks that [Stefania] can’t [play varsity baseball],” Tom said. “But softball is such a great game, what’s there to prove?”
“We’d always go in the backyard and hit in the cage by ourselves,” said Giuliana, who is committed to play softball at Binghamton. “We’d have catches all the time. She’s on my softball team now. We always grew up playing together.”
Stefania has high aspirations for herself, even though she’s barely a teenager. She wants to play in the Olympics one day, whether that’s as a softball player, or as a member of the women’s baseball team.
“That’s one of my biggest goals,” she said. “I would love to be in the Olympics, playing the sport I love on TV in front of a lot of people. I don’t have a favorite. I love both sports.”