Former area baseball standouts Owen Lukens and Tyler Albert were named to the 16-man 2022 men’s fast pitch national roster.
The team is set to compete at the American qualifier in Parana, Argentina February 19-27. If they win, they would move on to the 2022 World Baseball and Softball Confederation’s Men’s World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand in November of 2022.
Lukens, former Williamsport high school player and current Sports Information Director at Mansfield University, said he was honored to be selected.
“Fastpitch has been a huge part of my life since I could remember. I grew up watching my dad and sister play and travel. I always loved all aspects of the game and getting to compete at the highest level for my country is such an honor," Lukens said.
“I don’t want to take anything for granted, live in the moment and take in the entire experience. Being a member of the USA organization a surreal feeling. I have such respect for the players that came before me and those who will come after me,” he continued.
Lukens, who has played fast pitch softball since the age of 16, began playing travel fast pitch softball following the end of his baseball career at Mansfield University. Lukens was picked up by a team based out of Lancaster that competes in top-tier men's tournaments around the country.
Albert stumbled into the world of fast pitch while eating at a local restaurant when Randy Lukens, Owen's father, struck up a conversation with Albert about his baseball career and interest in softball. From that point on the two have competed and excelled past their high school and collegiate careers leading up to this next adventure together.
Albert, a former Montoursville standout catcher, played collegiate baseball at Cecil College, the University of Pittsburgh, and Tennessee Wesleyan University.
"I saw this as a chance to find an outlet for the competition I desired," Albert said of his start in competitive softball. "Little did I know the friendships, and the level of competition I would continue to pursue would happen. Fast pitch is a great game because of the connections you make with one another every summer. It’s an amazing opportunity to play against the best in the world each year."
Last August, Lukens and Albert competed with their team in the International Softball Congress World Series, making the championship; meanwhile, the USA Selection Committee was in attendance.
Following the ISC World Series, the duo was selected to the 40-man roster. Then, earlier this week, they secured a spot on the final roster.
Tuesday night, Lukens got the call and in his own words could simply say, "It’s a dream come true."
Echoing the sentiment, Albert said, "The opportunity to represent my country by playing a game I love at the national level is an opportunity that I greatly respect. The reason I respect this opportunity so much is because of the work I put in to get to this point, and a chance like this does not happen often. Being able to go through this process with a good friend such as Owen -- it’s a remarkable moment in one’s life."
Lukens shared Albert's feelings about the journey. "I also can’t wait to share this experience with my friend Tyler Albert. We set out for this goal three years ago, hoping someday we would be considered and getting selected at the same time was awesome. We wont take anything for granted and honestly just want to live in the moment," said Lukens.
The two will attend a Team USA training camp in January in Fort Myers, Fla. and also will compete in an international scrimmage against Mexico.
Lukens thanked the Mansfield University staff for being so supportive and will be training on the campus facilities.
Albert is currently finishing up his Masters degree at Castleton University and is confident he's ready for the next stretch while balancing life and training. "My life has never been put on hold because of this game. It’s about finding balance in what you do with your time. Baseball has been a part of my life for ever, and in college you always had to get yourself ready for the season. The same thing applies here with fast pitch," he said.
"No one is responsible for what you do except yourself, so in preparation for the season coming up, it’s second nature when it comes to physical and mental prep."