Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It was a dream, but no one knew how to accomplish it

This human interest feature article was written as part of the requirements for Dr. Staurowsky’s SMT 608 Sports Information and Public Relations class by Simone Suetsugu.  


She is known as “Gordinha, Vi, Vivi, Vivian Saca Moco, honey, and Bi," – nicknames that family members, teammates, and friends call her as signs of friendship, trust and intimacy. These nicknames may sound bizarre to outsiders, but Vivian knows that these  are gifts given by her loved ones showing affection.

Vivian is enthusiastic, respectful, loyal, inspiring, supportive and fun. She is from  
Maringa, Brazil. She started playing softball because of her brothers. “My parents always took them to practice and many times they saw girls playing softball, so then they decided to put me in to play as well,” said Vivian. 

When she was young, Vivian had many accomplishments but it was when she was fifteen that she stood out and was selected to represent the Brazilian National Team.  In order to practice with the National team, Vivian and her family had to drive every weekend more than 1600km to Sao Paulo. However it was in 2007, when Vivian got selected once again to represent Brazil in the Pan American Games that her family decided to move to Sao Paulo.  Julia Morimoto, Vivian’s mom explained, “ We decided to move … so Vivian could focus more on training to prepare for the Pan American games”.

The more successful Vivian became, the more she was motivated to keep working hard. She dreamed that she would “One day have the opportunity to play and study in the United States”. Her hard work was shown on the field, but she did not have any clue how she could make her dreams become true. She used to stay in front of a computer searching for information about big universities with good softball programs. Vivian was determined that one day her dream would become a reality.

"The only thing that used to come to my mind while watching my daughter in front of the computer every day searching for information, for these schools was, there is nothing wrong with dreaming big or having big goals, it is giving her something to strive for, " said Julia. 

The inconveniences that come with an athletic career – long hours of practice, longer bus rides, even longer nights without sleep – did not discourage Vivian.  Through the chronic physical laments that softball players routinely experience – sore muscles and aching limbs - Vivian never gave up striving to realize her dream. It was after the Pan American Games that Vivian received the best news of her life, a scholarship to play at Miami Dade College. The scholarship came from a Cuban coach, Carlos Caro, who had a connection with Vivian's coaches from Brazil.

Describing his first encounter with Vivian as player, Coach Caro said, "I received an email from my good friends from Cuba, Maritza and Rebecca saying that they were currently living and coaching in Brazil, and had this talented catcher that was really interested in playing in the United States. First, I was surprised that people played softball in Brazil but without questioning much I went ahead and asked them to send me a skill video of this talented catcher. My eyes were in shock, in how talented Vivian was, I could tell from the video her passion for the game. I wanted her from the moment I opened those, skill videos”.

On August 21, 2008, Vivian packed all her stuff in two big suitcases and headed to Miami, Florida. Overwhelmed with anticipation, Vivian could not sleep on the ten-hour flight. “I could not believe my dream was becoming reality".

Arriving in Miami at 2:00 a.m., Vivian was met at the airport by a tall guy with a thick accent, Coach Caro, “the guy responsible for making my dream becomes true…". Carlos took Vivian to her new place where she was going to call home for the next two years, an apartment in the Kendal area with five other softball players. 

Vivian's journey, started from that day, 6:00 a.m. weight lifting to long hours of classes without understanding half of the material because of the language difference. Long and exhausting practices and intense conditioning made her want to cry and give up frequently.  She now had to learn to cook and clean, because she no longer had her mom beside her to do it all. People made fun of her accent, because English was not her first language. Vivian would talk to her parents for hours every day because she missed them so much. "It was not easy, I did not realize that I was going to go through all these hard times, but at the end of the day all paid off”.

In her two years at Miami Dade, Vivian, contributed to the Lady Sharks winning their first ever NJCAA National Championship. Vivian also helped Miami Dade to win, two NJCCAA Southern Conference championships, an Atlantic District Championship and one time the Puerto Rico Cup. She was named NJCAA DI Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American team two times, in 2009 and 2010. She also posted the most runs batted in (RBIs) (88) and putouts (484) in two seasons. In addition, she earned the Miami Dade Academic Award in 2009 and led the team in batting average both years (.420/. 408) while breaking the RBI record.

Because of her successful career at Miami Dade College, Vivian got a scholarship to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a successful Division I program. Vivian at that point was used to the new language, culture, life style, and practice schedule, so she was confident that she would not struggle with those aspects anymore. However her expectation went into a different direction. Vivian struggled once again. “I cried, and I cried, and I cried. I called my mom many times and I wanted to give up”.

Once again, Vivian overcame all obstacles. With her strong work ethic and dedication, Vivian helped the Lady Mocs to many more accomplishments. In 2011, Vivian started in 43 games as a catcher and designated player. She was named NFCA All-South Region Second Team, All-Southern Conference First Team. Vivian also paced the team with a .402 average, sixth-best in school history as a junior. She also tallied 51 hits including nine doubles, a triple and six home runs, drove in 31 runs, while crossing the plate 35 times. In addition, she compiled .630 slugging and .500 on-base pct., tied for highest in a single-season and was SoCon Player of the Week.

Vivian’s senior year was not much different; she continued to lead the team by example and hard work. She started all 55 games as at catcher and designated player. She finished the season with a batting average of a .345 including 20 doubles, third-most in school history, and 14 home runs, 3rd-highest in a single-season. 
She was named to the 2012 NFCA All-South Region Second Team, the 2012 All-Southern Conference First team and she was perfect from behind the plate defensively with a 1.000 fielding pct., 183 putouts, 16 assists and threw-out five base stealers.

Vivian is the best example of someone who had a dream and fought to accomplish it. She showed an enormous amount of dedication and courage. Even as she encountered devastating obstacles because of culture and the difference in language, Vivian never gave up.  It is nice to believe that you can find the field where you are naturally gifted, but it often does not happen that way. Nobody is great without work. There are no great athletes who become great without perseverance.

Vivian is a role model to many, whether old or young, who have big dreams. Reflecting on the lessons she has learned on her journey, Vivian said, “If you have a dream, stick to it. You do not come across success just by hoping. It takes patience, motivation, hard work, and determination. As much as it seems hard and sometimes impossible to accomplish, don’t give up!” finalized Vivian. 


Simone Suetsugu is a Class of 2015 graduate student in sport management at Drexel University who works as a graduate assistant with the Drexel softball team.  

1 comment:

  1. I, Carlos Caro the responsible for opening the doors to the land of opportunities and dreams to this girls and many others (girls from Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico) I'm VERY, VERY PROUD of this students-athletes that excelled in the classroom, field of play & no doubts they will excel in life......Ladies is time for you all to pay it forward... Miss & Love U all!