Through The Eyes

An Oakland Athletics site

My Gotcha Party

By AnnaBelle Tomei

Mothers and daughters have a special bond.

This is especially evident in my relationship with my mom. Throughout my life, she has always been there for me. She’s my best friend. I know that no matter what we’re doing, it’s going to be a good time.

But, the one thing we love to do most of all centers around food. From watching cooking shows on the Food Network to making some of her recipes, we’ve bonded over our mutual love for the kitchen. We’ve even talked about opening a restaurant together.

And my dad dedicated so much of his own time to support my volleyball dreams. He is another reason why I was able to do what I love, every single day.

It’s those types of moments that make me cherish all my mom and dad have done for me. I lucked out with being adopted into this wonderful and loving family who have helped support me at every step.

Thanks to them, I’ve pursued my goal of playing Division I volleyball. And, hopefully, down the line, I’ll get to help fulfill one of my mom’s dreams as well.

I’m thankful to be here at Oakland, continuing the path my parents helped pave, although it wasn’t easy getting here.

A Challenging Recruitment

I was very proactive in my recruitment process.

It was always my goal to play DI. As early as my sophomore year, I was doing anything I could to promote myself and make sure the right colleges were seeing me play.

One of the first things I did was sign up for a recruiting service. This put my name out to tons of universities. Almost immediately, it seemed to be working!

Big DI programs came to watch me play. I’d get really excited when I saw them sitting courtside. I was ready to show them what I could do and why they needed me on their roster.

But when I’d look up later, they’d be gone.

It was discouraging to see these schools come and not give me a real look. I had the drive, agility, and skill level to read the court but I am a 5’6’’ setter in the volleyball world that wants a 5’10’’ or taller at the nets. 

What seemed like a promising start became a tough stretch for me.

Every year it only got worse. Not only was I not getting looks, but girls above and even below my class were getting offers.

I really started to stress out.

At this point, I wasn’t sure what to do, so I started reaching out to schools directly. I wasn’t looking for scholarship offers but for an opportunity to walk-on. Upon further investigation, though, that route was going to be way too expensive.

I was running out of options.

But I couldn’t let my dream die like this, right?

Thankfully, someone was looking out for me. The director of my club organization knew that Oakland’s setter had recently transferred. I was encouraged to reach out to the Golden Grizzlies.

I went on a visit in January of my senior year and committed that night. It was so easy to fall in love with the campus, volleyball program, and school.

Through the whole stressful ordeal, my parents were so helpful. They kept me going even when the process was discouraging.

It really made me realize just how lucky I am to be a part of their family.

Gotcha Party

My parents adopted me when I was one. While my mom was hoping I’d be in the U.S. for my first birthday (I was born in China), things didn’t quite pan out that way.

But, that didn’t stop my family from throwing a party. They called it a Gotcha Party.

Everyone in my family was so excited to meet me. They all came to the airport when I first arrived. Then, we headed home and had the party to celebrate me as a new addition to their family.

It wasn’t until kindergarten that I learned I was adopted. One of my friends noticed that I didn’t look like my parents and was pretty confused by that.

“You must be adopted!”

“Adopted? I don’t even know what that is!”

My mom then explained how adoption worked and how I came into their family.

To me, it didn’t change anything. This was my family. These were my parents. They loved me as their daughter. And that’s what really mattered.

I know who I am and that I belong to a loving, caring family.

That’s why, when I graduate, I want to be able to do something for them, particularly my mom.

A Shared Dream

After I’m done at Oakland, I plan to go to cooking school. I’d love to attend one in either New York or France.

The idea is to open a restaurant or café and work with my mom. Basically, it would be building a business out of the same thing we’ve always been passionate about.

The restaurant would use my mom’s recipes, which are the same ones we shared when I was young. We would hang out and mirror the people we watched on TV. This is a dream that both of us have had for some time.

But, right now, I’m still focused on school and volleyball. I don’t want to rush things at Oakland. I love this team, my coaches, and the university as a whole.

In my first year, I’ve already grown so much as a player and teammate. They make me significantly better. I feel like every day I’m here, I get smarter, especially in my overall knowledge of the game.

Right now, I’m living the dream of playing college volleyball – a goal my parents helped me achieve.

Because of their support, I know I can also make that next dream down the line come true. In a way, opening a restaurant with my mom is a sign of gratitude for what she has done, and really what my family has done to set me up for success.

I wouldn’t be here without them.