Fastballs, language barriers don’t scare Swedish softball star


Matilda Öijer

City College softball player, Emma Tegth Nordin (No. 8), sits on the field on March 6, at Pershing Park in Santa Barbara. Nordin also plays for the Swedish National Team and plans to play in the European Championship next summer.


When someone talks about the current student population at City College, diversity is sure to come up as a common diction.

If you ask around campus to describe the “common Swedish student” many students will describe platinum blonde hair, blue eyes and high fashion.

“I can walk to class and without hearing two girls speaking, I can tell they are Swedish,”  City College student Jacob Fogelhut said. “They kind of fit a profile.”

So for Swedish softball player Emma Tegth Nordin (No. 8), her brown hair and softball uniform set her apart from the cliché’s and profiles of our western culture.

Born and raised a golfer, track athlete and a dancer in Leksand, Sweden, Nordin approached her mom at the age of 11 and told her she wanted to try softball. Her mother was opposed to the idea, afraid that this American sport would take away her time on the track, golf course and dance floor.

“My parents said I shouldn’t even try softball because I wouldn’t have time,” Nordin said.

But Nordin wanted to pursue the sport. After many talks with her parents, she found herself with a softball glove and a new pair of rubber-spiked cleats.

It didn’t take long for Nordin to become good at softball and after a few months her mother and father came around.

“After I started doing well, my mom said maybe I should keep playing softball,” Nordin said laughing. “So I quit track, golf, and swim and I focused on it.”

She attended Sweden Academy, a softball school where she was a standout student athlete. It was clear that Nordin was a natural at the game and at the age of 19, Emma was named to the Swedish National Softball Team.

“I love my national team,” Nordin said. “They are like my second family.”

She came to the United States in 2013, speaking rough English and never living on her own before. She was up against players who had been playing softball for over 15 years. She picked Santa Barbara over four other schools in California, landing on a team of Americans who had known each other for two years, some for three.

It was a shock to her system, and it would have been easy for Nordin to get lost in her own space. But team captain Brianna Portese insisted that Emma was in good hands.

“With any foreigner there’s always going to be a language barrier,” Portese said. “But we’re not the kind of team that would leave her behind.”

It’s difficult enough for a college freshman to reach out to people in a class, or on the bus traveling home to school. So, traveling outside your home country and your comfort zone is something most people can’t imagine doing.

“When she talks to people who speak English I know that she’s nervous that she might say something wrong, or offensive,” Portese said. “But when she’s with us she lets go of that fear. I’m pretty proud of how far she’s come.”

The team puts no pressure on either Nordin or the other two freshmen on the team.  But, Nordin puts most of the pressure on herself.

Nordin proved that pressure wasn’t an issue when she came to the plate with the game tied in the last inning against L.A. Pierce on Feb. 25.  She dug her cleats into the batter’s box and lined a single to left field, scoring Nicole Bennett (No. 21)  giving the Vaqueros the victory.

“Most of the pressure I feel is only because I want to make my family and friends back home proud of me,” Nordin said. “But I came here for myself. I want to focus on the game and myself getting better.”

The decision to move her life from Sweden to California has been a transition eased by the hospitality and family like atmosphere of the City College team. Nordin says she’s excited about leaving Santa Barbara to see her friends and family, although she will miss it here.

And this summer, she has big plans overseas. Nordin’s Swedish National Team will be traveling to Prague in June to play against countries such as France, Italy, Prague, and the Netherlands in the European Championships.

Nordin insists that coming to the U.S. and playing for City College has increased her skill level.

So ahead of the curve, and ready to take on international teams, Nordin will leave the U.S with more than a suntan and a full vocabulary of English slang. Nordin will leave behind a newfound family.

She cannot wait to return to Santa Barbara in the future. But before she says goodbye, or “Hejdå,” to City College, Nordin is focusing on helping her team roll into the playoffs and bringing home a conference championship.