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Wesleyan's Duley making her mark with USA Baseball

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Upcoming junior Landyn Duley, 16, of Wesleyan High School is among the 36 females nation wide competing for a spot on the 20 women roster of the U.S.A. Baseball Women's National Team in Salt Lake City this weekend. Duley who plays baseball and softball is trying out as a pitcher and or outfielder for the U.S.A. team.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Upcoming junior Landyn Duley, 16, of Wesleyan High School is among the 36 females nation wide competing for a spot on the 20 women roster of the U.S.A. Baseball Women's National Team in Salt Lake City this weekend. Duley who plays baseball and softball is trying out as a pitcher and or outfielder for the U.S.A. team.

As many Atlanta area girls her age did, Landyn Duley joined a softball team when she was 8 years old. The experiment was brief.

"She hated it," her mother, Tammy Duley, said. "She said it was so slow. She didn't have any interest in it."

A few years after that softball season, a family friend caught Duley throwing the baseball with her father. His suggestion --sign her up for baseball.

The Duleys did just that, and their only daughter was a star in baseball leagues where she was the lone girl. She was an all-star her first three baseball seasons and played travel ball against boys from the start of fifth grade up until her ninth-grade year at Wesleyan. She even played for her school's eighth-grade baseball team at King's Ridge.

At her baseball games, rival fans marveled that a girl was so good at the sport. But she wasn't a novelty to her teammates, she was just Landyn, another good player.

As Duley entered high school, the baseball options were more limited. She plays softball for Wolves --and likely will play that sport at the college level --as well as basketball and track and field. But she figured her baseball days were coming to a close.

Then a family friend, former major league pitcher Paul Byrd, urged her to try out for the USA Baseball Women's National Team, even though she hadn't pitched in two years. A video of Duley playing baseball sparked the organization's interest, which has led to much more.

The Wesleyan junior begins National Team Trials this weekend as one of 36 remaining players in the national pool, which was trimmed after three nationwide tryouts in June. The sessions begin today at the University of Utah and run through Wednesday, when a full team is picked for this year's IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup, slated for Aug. 10-19 in Canada.

"I was hoping I would make it (to Trials), but I am surprised because I'm one of the younger ones going out there," Duley said. "It's a big opportunity. I'm excited about it."

Duley is one of just three 16-year-olds in the camp, which is made up predominantly of college softball players or softball players who have recently finished college. Some are adult players as old as 38.

USA Baseball is mainly interested in her as a pitcher, though her versatility (she also plays shortstop in baseball and center field in softball) is also a benefit. Though she hasn't gauged her velocity in years, the right-hander guesses that she throws in the low 70s on a good day.

"I honestly don't know what I'm going up against (in Trials), but it would be awesome to (make the World Cup team)," Duley said.

If she makes the USA Baseball team, she would miss some of the Wesleyan softball season. If not, she plans to rejoin the Wolves and help them pursue the state title.

It will be a quick switch between the two sports.

"To me, they're really different sports," Duley said. "People watch it and say they're totally the same game. But the pitching's different, the bases are closer. One is a quicker game. It's hard to explain why it feels different, but you have to play it to understand.

"I don't think it will be too hard of a transition, though, because I think the sport comes naturally to me, the throwing and the hitting."

While baseball is comfortable to Duley --in some ways more than softball --it's still pretty unique to most outsiders. They expect young girls to be on the softball field, not the baseball diamond.

But most of her friends don't think it's a big deal anymore.

"They're used to me playing baseball and they know I've played a lot of baseball," Duley said. "Usually people who don't know say, softball? No, baseball. Then they all think it's cool because it's so different. It's not common for a girl to be playing baseball."