The Caribbean island of Aruba is a vacation destination for a few fortunate people, and a vacation dream for thousands of others.
Thanks to her participation on a traveling United States softball team, that trip of a lifetime became a reality for former Northern Cambria High School and Mount Aloysius College softball standout Jenna Bobik this past June.
Bobik, 22, of Nicktown, was a third baseman-outfielder for a Kansas-based softball program known as U.S.A. Athletes International. The squad won two of five games against an Aruban national team during a visit to the island paradise June 7-14.
Jenna Bobik has been able to travel to places such as Germany, Belgium and Australia the past few summers.
"It was amazing,'' Bobik said about her Aruba experience. "I'm not a big beach person, but I absolutely loved it there.''
The competition that Bobik's team faced was top-notch, although the playing fields had a much different layout than those that are seen on American soil.
"It was completely different - there is no grass on the softball fields there. Both the outfield and infield on their fields were all dirt,'' Bobik said. "The outfields there are kind of like the infields on the fields here.''
From sightseeing rides in jeeps to deep-sea snorkeling, Bobik had plenty of fun in her free time there as well.
"It was one happy island,'' she said. "I went snorkeling there for the first time, and it was pretty awesome. The water was so clear.''
Bobik has been playing softball around the world with the U.S.A. Athletes International program for the past five summers. In 2010, she made a visit to Italy, and in 2011, the team traveled to Australia. Trips to Germany and the Czech Republic followed in 2012, followed by visits to Belgium, Germany and Holland in 2013.
"In Germany, we saw where the Berlin Wall stood,'' Bobik said. "We went to the site of a concentration camp when we were in the Czech Republic, and in Italy, we visited the Vatican. I got to see a lot of the stuff that I learned about in history books.''
The competition that her team - made up of various players from throughout the United States that were recruited and invited to be members of the program - faced on the softball field over the past five summers was also very good.
"When we went to Italy, we played teams from France and Holland,'' she said. "When we went to the Czech Republic, we played teams from Russia, Sweden and Germany. Australia had a lot of players who played for Division I colleges. All of those teams could definitely hold their own against us.''
Most of the players on Bobik's USA squad are college-age players, but the ages of the players on the overseas teams varied dramatically.
"In Holland, Aruba, Australia, and every other country but ours, girls and women from the ages of 14 to 40 can all be playing on the same team,'' Bobik said. "I've met some pretty awesome people from throughout the United States, and from every other country that I've visited.''
Bobik was a three-year starter in the infield on the softball team at Northern Cambria High School, from which she graduated in 2010. Paul Artley, who retired as Northern Cambria's softball coach earlier this year, had the pleasure of coaching Bobik during her high school days.
"She was very dedicated and hard-working, and she was one of the first to show up for practice and the last to go,'' Artley remembered. "Jenna definitely enjoyed the game of softball.''
Bobik - a physical fitness devotee who participates in distance running, mixed martial arts, and power-lifting - has bachelor's and associate's degrees in the physical therapy field from Mount Aloysius, and she is planning to enroll in a physical therapy doctorate program this fall at Gannon University in Erie.
She credited and thanked her family and friends, as well as strength trainer Kevin Schneider, and mixed martial arts coaches Jason Dignan, Patrick Johnston, and Bryan Brumbaugh, along with Mike Gentry - who introduced her to mixed martial arts -- for their help and support.
And although Bobik said that her education is her biggest priority, she may have more irons in the proverbial softball fire as well.
"I've been asked to go to Curacao [an island near Aruba] to play softball next year, but I'm not sure where I'll be with my education and clinical training then,'' Bobik said. "It's cool to represent your hometown, your college and your country while playing softball.''