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Lisa Fernandez on USA Softball

Posted by Trish18 Jul 17, 2007

Lisa Fernandez is one of the most recognizable names in softball. Her long list of accolades include: three-time Olympic gold medalist, four-time World Championships gold medalist and two-time NCAA Women's College World Series champion. 

http://active.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2007/07/17/lisa.jpgLisa_2We sat down with Fernandez to get her thoughts on being a mom, the growth of softball and her chances at making a comeback for the 2008 Beijing games.

How is motherhood treating you so far?

It’s more than I ever thought it would be--in a positive way. You never realize you can love something so much until you have your own. When Antonio puts his head on my shoulder, I’m not going to move. It’s amazing how the smile on his face can light up your day. It’s been a great thing.

Is it tough to balance traveling extensively, training and being a mom?

It has been great for him to travel on the road with me and to adjust the way he has. He’s been able to experience more things in his short life of a year and a half than most kids do in their whole lives. I have a whole new appreciation for little kids--they really don’t know anything until you teach them everything they learn. So that’s pretty neat, to be able to teach him things and see him retain it.

Are you enjoying your time off or do you feel like you want to get out there and throw a few when you are watching?

When we’re not doing well, I do. When we’re doing great, I’m happy where I am. When we win--it’s a win whether it’s me in the circle or Cat or Finch. It’s harder for me when we don’t get it done--when we’re struggling and I know I can contribute.

Are you planning a comeback for the 2008 Beijing games?

I’m training really hard and planning on going to the training camp in September. We’ll see how it goes and hopefully my versatility will be to my advantage. I can pitch, I can play third, the infield and I can hit. So I have that in my favor--not being one dimensional.

Speaking of your hitting, growing up, my team and I all had a bat with your name on it. You were such a great role model for us. Who did you look up to?

I can remember Jennifer Azee, a basketball player out of Stanford. She was one of the first ones I remember seeing on television and I remember how physically fit she was and still maintained her femininity. That was a real good sign for me to be strong and still be considered not only a good athlete but also a good person. I think that’s important because we’re not all built the same but we can still be who we are.

What kind of influence did your family have on your athletic career?

My grandmother and my mom were both very big feminists. Their belief in my sister and I being able to take care of ourselves before we settled down enabled us to achieve our dreams. With my dad, you don’t find many people who will continue to support their kids the way he has throughout my career. He’s had some people say, “Why are you still letting your daughter play ball?” He took my medals and my bat and said, “This is why my daughter still plays ball.” I couldn’t have done it with out that.

What is your favorite country to play in while on the road?

Japan is a great place to play. They’re rabid when it comes to their sports. Not even necessarily their professional sports, but their amateur sports. They eat and breathe it.

Do you have a special place you keep your medals?

I actually don’t. I keep my medals in a drawer in my house that is really accessible because I bring them with me when I travel.

You’ve been such a huge part of USA Softball. How have you seen it grow?

Immensely. Look at how many people were in the stands tonight--the place was packed. I remember being at the Women’s College World Series my first year and there were three or four thousand. When I graduated it was seven thousand people. I think that’s when the sport started to grow, in the early 1990s with ESPN putting it on television. Ultimately, the big boom happened with the 1996 Olympics and put us into a whole new stratosphere.

In addition to a larger fan-base, have you seen the interest level jump in participation as well?

Absolutely. Southern California used to dominate the game. Not anymore--now it’s Florida, Texas, you name it. There are kids all over the world and all over this country that are playing this game and that just shows how much it has grown.

(Photo provided by AFP/Omar Torres)

5,211 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: olympics, softball-fastpitch, usa, lisa-fernandez

What's next for Team USA?

Posted by Trish18 Jul 16, 2007

With just over a year until the 2008 Beijing summer games, the U.S team is steamrolling over the competition. In fact, Team USA's toughest competition may come from within.

 

In addition to claiming a consecutive World Cup of Softball championship this year, the national team also uses the tournament to determine which players will make the Olympic squad. With the World Cup coming to an end a few players are moving up the ranks.

 

Taira Flowers, who has gone five for eleven with 11 runs batted in and two home runs, knows how important it is. “I’m trying to be confident every time I step into the box and look for good pitches. I definitely worked extra hard this past off season knowing I have this opportunity to step into the lineup.”

 

Vicky Galindo is also doing her best to seize her chance, with a batting average of .583, six runs batted in and one home run. "This is a big summer for me. We have our Olympic try outs coming up and I just want to make sure I secure my place on the team," Galindo emphasized. "I want to make sure I don’t make any errors or mental mistakes. I just want to play perfect ball."

 

Team USA has been playing perfect ball so far in the World Cup going undefeated in five games. Knowing their days are numbers, even secure players like Jennie Finch feel the pressure. “With the Olympics right around the corner--this is it. This is our time to shine, work hard and leave it all on the field,” Finch said.

 

Who has surprised you this season to earn a spot on the 2008 Olympic team?

3,792 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: softball-fastpitch, usa, world-cup-of-softball

USA Knocks Off Canada 7-0

Posted by Trish18 Jul 15, 2007

Despite two appearances yesterday, Finch was able to accomplish what her fellow pitchers had not been able to—namely, pitch the first complete game of the World Cup of Softball. The effort came with six strike outs in six innings of work.

“I tried to be specific with each pitch and make each pitch count,” Finch described. “I felt more comfortable as the game went on.”

Finch3_2Part of the reason for her increased comfort level is the extra time she’s had to work herself into dominant form after giving birth to her first child.

“Last year I didn’t have any time to prepare; I came back right after having Ace,” Finch said. “After you have babies your bones and muscles expand.”

What was the remedy? The same work ethic that drove her success at Arizona. “I spent a long year of hard work in the weight room. Just to have time to let everything get back to normal…a lot of hard work has made a difference,” commented Finch.

Hard work has also made a difference with Crystl Bustos. Teams have continually tried to throw her up and in, but she has responded with timely adjustments.

She launched a two-run home run to centerfield in the bottom of the first, providing all the offense the United States would need. When asked about her at-bat, Bustos explained, “I caught it a little more inside than I wanted it. But I have the strength sometimes to muscle it out.”

If Bustos continues to “muscle it out,” the U.S. should skate to a back-to-back World Cup win and poised for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

3,677 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: softball-fastpitch, usa, canada, world-cup-of-softball

Stop me if you've heard this one before--the United States shut out the Dominican Republic 9-0 in another mercy rule-shortened game.

 

Alicia Hollowell wasted no time settling in on the mound.  She gave up zero runs on one hit in her three innings of work.

 

Team USA got all the offense they would need in the second inning. The U.S. scored eight runs on nine hits--the biggest one coming from the bat of Vicky Galindo in the form of a three-run home run. "The hitting is contagious," Galindo explained. "But the important thing to do is be patient and look for your pitch."

 

Jennie Finch took over in the fourth inning. She was unhittable, striking out all six batters she faced.

 

Tonight the U.S. will face sterner competition against Japan in a re-match of the past two year's championship game.

3,251 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: softball-fastpitch, usa, world-cup-of-softball, dominican-republic

U.S. Continues Winning Ways

Posted by Trish18 Jul 13, 2007

For a pitcher who boasts 20 no-hitters and 10 perfect games in her collegiate career, giving up a hit and a walk in the first inning had the look of a shaky start.

Cat52China’s Zou Zi managed a single off Cat Osterman on the first pitch of the game, but the offensive attack didn’t last long as the U.S. cruised to an 8-0 victory in a mercy-rule shortened game.

Osterman made quick adjustments and gained strength as the game went on, finishing with seven strikeouts in a row. The biggest tip may not have been from head coach Mike Candrea, but from her dad who was rooting her on in the crowd.

“We’re not supposed to look in the stands, but my dad reminded me to spin the ball,” Osterman said. “He could tell I was over-throwing. After I realized that, I kind of relaxed and tried not to throw as hard and just spin it because that’s what I’m here to do and that’s what I’m known for.”

She might have had good reason for starting the game a little rusty after two recent surgeries—one on her ankle and one on her shoulder. When asked how the shoulder felt she didn’t seem too concerned. “It’s feeling ok. I just go back and forth as far as strength and how it feels, but it’s feeling good today.”

Even if Osterman hadn’t made adjustments, she would have likely gotten the win behind a U.S. team that has scored 17 runs in 10 innings. This time the fireworks were provided by Tairia Flowers’ fourth-inning grand slam. She continues her scorching offensive output from the Canada Cup last week where she batted a staggering .650. “All year I’ve been working hard and getting a lot of repetitions in,” Flowers explained. “My confidence just keeps building as our games go on.”

The American team can’t celebrate too much tonight as they will be back at it early tomorrow against the Dominican Republic in game one of a two-game set.

(Photo provided by USA Softball)

1,501 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: softball-fastpitch, usa, world-cup-of-softball, cat-osterman, china

Jennie Ritter on being a Rookie

Posted by Trish18 Jul 13, 2007

What is it like to be a rookie on the U.S. national softball team? For Caitlin Lowe, it meant having a bucket of balls hand-cuffed to her arm so she had to carry it around all day. For Jessica Mendoza, it meant finding her jersey in the toilet with a Baby Ruth bar and pineapple juice. For national team newcomer Jennie Ritter, it means something a little more practical—getting in tune with two new catchers in three short weeks.

Ritter“We have such a short time to get to know each other but they’ve been both my roommates the past two weeks. We’ve had a chance to sit and talk and I really like them, they know what they’re doing; they are really smart.”

The last time Ritter stepped on the field at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium she led Michigan to the Women’s College World Series title in 2005. “I drove in and it brought back a lot of memories. I started thinking about the team and how great it was. I’m hoping to continue the success.”

One reason for her collegiate success was how closely she worked with her battery-mate, Becky Marx. “I think with catchers, you have a serious relationship,” explains Ritter. “To be on the same wave length and understand each other--beyond just pitches--it’s kind of a big thing.”

Most pitchers have a more of a struggle getting into a rhythm with catchers, but this was not the case for Ritter. Ritter and Marx had a head-start on their relationship having played together prior to college. “It was cool catching for her because we would go an entire game and she would never shake off a pitch because she agreed with all of them,” Marx shared. “She wasn’t a pitcher and I was the catcher--we had a good partnership and worked as a unit.”

Now Ritter turns her attention to the World Cup of Softball where she is part of the most dominating pitching staff in international softball. When asked if she felt pressure as part of such a competitive rotation she replied, “My thing right now is to control what I can control. Not be so worried what the team thinks or what the coaches think or what all the fans are hoping. My goal is to shut them down.”

Ritter hasn’t avoided the rookie pranks entirely. Laura Berg, the team prankster, slapped her on the shoulder and asked how her workout went. Thinking Berg was genuinely interested in how she was doing, Ritter later found out that Berg was more interested in putting a luggage tag on her back.

In the end, Ritter is here to get her job done and is happy and honored to be doing it. “One of the great things about this team is that while there are rookies and veterans, there’s not necessarily a big difference between them. Everyone on this team deserves to be here.”

2,749 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: softball-fastpitch, usa, world-cup-of-softball, jennie-ritter