NORMAN — Georgia Casey's home away from home is made of red dirt, green grass, friendly smiles and lots of laughter.
Her actual home is 40 minutes from the Sydney Opera House and the Central Business District in bustling Sydney, Australia, which she said is a smaller version of Los Angeles. While Casey is about a 20-hour flight from her home Down Under, her temporary family, the Oklahoma softball team, helps makes the distance seem not-so-far away.
But it's still a long way.
“Yes, sometimes it feels longer,” Casey said. “It doesn't feel close.”
Playing softball and being around her teammates keeps her from being overly homesick. The competitive practices OU coach Patty Gasso conducts keeps her focused on why she came to Norman. But mostly, it's the strength in Casey's personality that makes her a winning person and player.
And that's why Gasso's thinking of looking for other “Georgia Caseys.”
Gasso wasn't exactly sure how to go about things in the fall of 2010. Casey was her first international recruit. Although Gasso heard good things from Casey's coach and saw a great player in Casey's film, the Sooners' coach wasn't quite sure what she was getting.
“I don't know the history and the background of how she's been playing and how well she's been coached,” Gasso said.
Then, as a freshman, Casey made the All Big-12 First Team. She ranked among the top four for the Sooners in home runs (10), RBIs (32), doubles (9), walks (25) and slugging percentage (. 632).
“I will tell you as a freshman she was one of the smartest freshmen in a game sense that I have ever had,” Gasso said. “That's an absolute testimony to her coaches. She obviously played on teams where there were girls much older than her, and you could see the maturity side of that.”
With her sophomore year now halfway done, Casey became a good leader for OU, too, according to Gasso. After 36 games, Casey has five home runs, 23 RBIs, eight doubles, 21 walks and a slugging percentage of .541.
While she's matured on the field, Casey's personality continues to shine.
Sophomore Lauren Chamberlain remembers first meeting Casey in the dorms.
“Everyone kept saying, ‘The Aussie is here,'” Chamberlain said. “She wasn't even in her room. She was going around to everyone's room like, ‘Hey, I'm Georgia.' Being all loud. I think we clicked because of that.”
The two are known for being talkative and, well, loud.
Chamberlain helped teach Casey how to drive and took her shopping, to American restaurants and to Oklahoma football games.
Casey taught Chamberlain that there's more to Sydney than what Chamberlain saw on Finding Nemo and about Vegemite, an Australian food paste that Chamberlain called “disgusting.”
“I've also picked up on little slang terms,” Chamberlain said. “Instead of, ‘Oh, there's a spot' in a parking lot you say, ‘Oh, there's a park.' So I always say now, ‘There's a good park.' I say, ‘Oy!' sometimes in place of ‘Hey!' so she knows I'm talking to her.
“She taught me more than I taught her.”
That's what Gasso likes about Casey, and it's why she might add another player from abroad to the roster.
“I definitely would go back for more,” Gasso said this week. “If I go more international, it's going to be Georgia telling me what we need in our program.”