Lisa Fernandez, a three-time Olympic champion and one of the best pitchers in the world, wasnt good enough to beat out Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott to make the U.S. National Teams final Olympic roster as the team readies for Beijing.
A few weeks ago, Fernandez admitted she was having a tough time getting her skills back, but was confident she could still play at a high level.
"I think I still have it," she said. "I think the advantage I have is my experience. I have the heart."
And she does. Ive followed Fernandezs career dating back to 1994 during her days at UCLA, where she led the Bruins to two NCAA championships. I watched her win a gold medal in the first Olympic Games that included the sport of softball. Every girl on my softball team had the Lisa Fernandez Louisville Slugger bat.
The truth is her vast amounts of experience and heart werent enough to earn her a spot in the Olympic rotation. When I interviewed Fernandez at the 2007 World Cup of Softball and asked her if she was planning on mounting a comeback, I believed she had a good chance of making it. Not only did she dominate opponents in the batters box with world-class style, but was a skilled third baseman and very strong hitter.
However, head coach Mike Candrea didnt think Fernandez got back to her usual dominating self after taking three years off to start a family.
"I was really hoping she would get close to where she was in 2004," said Candrea. " I wanted her to go out on top."
So while 37-year-old Fernandez has been left off the Olympic roster, she has been named a replacement player in the event someone gets injured. I don't think Candrea made a mistake but I sincerely wish that the Olympic roster allowed for one more player. I believe she is still the greatest softball player to ever play the game and appreciate the tremendous role she played in advancing the sport and giving female athletes someone to look up to.
Do you think Lisa Fernandez should have been included on the Olympic roster because of her versatility and experienceor does Team USA have the most solid squad possible now?
The 2008 USA Softball Olympic team roster:
Monica Abbott, Salinas, Calif. (University of Tennessee 07)
Laura Berg, Santa Fe Springs, Calif. (Graduate 98)
1996. Bill Clinton was president, the New York Yankees defeated the Atlanta Braves in six games to win their 23rd World Series title and an oddly-named collection of University of South Carolina graduates called Hootie and the Blowfish were the most popular band the world.
It was also the last time the USA Softball Women’s National team had lost a game.
That was until last night, when Virginia Tech hurler Angela Tincher no-hit the national team in a 1-0 surprising victory in Oklahoma City. The national team's loss was their first since May 3, 1996a defeat to California Select in Los Angeles, Califand broke a 185-game pre-Olympic tour win streak.
“My hat goes off to Angela Tincher tonight,” said head coach Mike Candrea. “She pitched a great ball game. I told our team what she was capable of and told them to be ready to go. But she came out firing and really kept us off our game.”
Perhaps even more surprising was the identity of the losing pitcher; staff ace Jennie Finch lasted only four innings, allowing one run and four hits over that span. Team USA had outscored its opponents 1,475-24 before last night's contest, including a 23-0 thrashing of the DePaul Blue Demons just hours before Tincher took the mound.
What do you think? Was the loss simply a minor speed bump for a team heavily favored to take the gold this summer or could this mean future problems for Team USA in Beijing? And would a strugglingif slightly imperfectTeam USA really be the worst thing for the sport of softball globally? (Many people think team USA's otherworldly dominance is a major factor in the sport being removed from Olympic rotation.)</p>
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