For Payson High School sophomore Brenna Zumbro, the burdens of playing off-season fastpitch softball in Phoenix are well worth the effort.
"I do it so that (the Lady Longhorn softball team) can hopefully make it to state next year," Zumbro said. "I want to win one (a state championship) for the seniors and hang a banner in the dome."
As the Lady Horns top-flight pitcher last season after an injury sidelined hurling ace Rachel Rae Zumbro pitched the Lady Horns to the state quarterfinals.
The taste of postseason action, she said, convinced her that if she was going to become an even better pitcher, she would need to hone her considerable skills in fall and summer leagues.
Last August, after a team tryout, Zumbro hooked up with the Phoenix-based Arizona Outlaws 16-years-and-under girls fast pitch team.
The Outlaws, coached by Larry Vaughn, participate almost year-round in the USSSA softball league.
Living in the Rim country and playing for a Valley area team has been a test of Zumbro and her family's wherewithal.
Each Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, Zumbro's mother, Val, drives her daughter to Phoenix for Outlaw practices. On weekends, the Zumbros return to Phoenix for games.
"We play about six games a weekend," Brenna said.
What makes the on-the-road schedule even more strenuous is that Brenna has continued this fall to play soccer for the Lady Longhorn varsity team.
It's not unusual, her mother said, for Brenna to wrap up a tiring weekday practice in Phoenix and then travel several hours to Snowflake, Show Low or other towns to play in Lady Horn soccer games.
"Sometimes we get there just as the (soccer) game is starting," Val said.
Although playing two demanding sports has been a family strain, it has also produced some unexpected dividends.
"I've made a lot of new friends and I really like my teammates," Brenna said. "They are funny, kind of goofy, but all really good players."
As one of the team's two front-line pitchers, Brenna has helped the Outlaws post a 10-3 record. When not pitching, she plays third base and the outfield.
In the near future, the team is slated to take to the national tournament trail something Brenna is looking forward to.
"We'll be traveling out of state, to California, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. That should be fun," she said.
The team has also qualified to participate in the USSSA Winter World Series Jan. 19 to 21 in Tucson.
Showcasing her skills on the national level might someday lead to her realizing a personal goal of earning a college athletic scholarship.
But before that happens, she said, a more immediate goal is to help the Lady Horns earn the school's first state softball championship.
"All this (travel and off-season practice) is hard, but I really want it to help us win (a state title)," she said. "I think Rachel and I can help the team do it."