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Move Over

Bustos' Performance Justifies U.S. Shift of Richardson to Second Base

September 01, 2000|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Those who have never seen Crystl Bustos play softball might say she has big shoes to fill replacing Dr. Dot Richardson as the U.S. Olympic team's shortstop.

But those who have witnessed Bustos' athleticism and talent know better.

Bustos, a 1995 Canyon High graduate who never played at a four-year college, replaced the media darling of the 1996 Olympic team at shortstop almost a year ago.

And the right-handed power hitter with extraordinary defensive range has taken Team USA by storm.

"I like Crystl's range in the field over Dot Richardson," said Olympic Coach Ralph Raymond, explaining his decision to move Richardson to second base and insert Bustos at shortstop when the team was selected last September.

Removing Richardson from a position she seemingly invented is like favoring a rookie over Cal Ripken.

Richardson is a 15-time Amateur Softball Assn. All-American and seven-time Erv Lind Award winner as the outstanding defensive player in ASA Women's Major Fastpitch National Championships.

Richardson, 38, produced the first hit and first home run of the Atlanta Games and provided the game-winning home run in the gold medal final against China.

A four-time All-American at UCLA and NCAA player of the decade for the 1980s, Richardson is more popular than The King or His Court.

None of that has intimidated Bustos, whose softball accolades pale by comparison.

"It's worked out pretty good," said Bustos, a two-time national junior college player of the year.

"We're both players of the game and were brought up by the same standards; you play where they need you."

Bustos, 16 years Richardson's junior, has proven an outstanding successor to displace the good doctor.

She helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in the 1999 Pan American Games, batting .439 and led the team with 18 hits and 15 runs batted in.

Bustos' worth continues to climb, no matter the competition.

She's the team's second-leading hitter behind Lisa Fernandez, batting .443 during the three-month "Central Park to Sydney" pre-Olympic tour that concludes this weekend in Hawaii.

At 5 feet 8, Bustos is not only among the most consistent hitters on the squad, she also packs the most power.

She leads the team with 70 hits, 63 runs batted in, 13 doubles and an .823 slugging percentage. She is second with 15 home runs.

Her feats have been getting rave reviews from teammates.

"She is a player," said Sheila Cornell Douty, first baseman who batted cleanup in the Atlanta Games. "Incredible power.

"I've always been a power hitter, but I think she hits the ball harder and farther than I've ever hit the ball."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

CRYSTL BUSTOS PROFILE

Age: 22

High School: Canyon

College: Palm Beach Community in Lake Worth, Fla. Cup...Member of the U.S. team that won gold in the 1999 Pan American Games...Two-time junior college All-American and player of the year...In two years at Palm Beach Community, she batted .614, had 135 hits, 26 doubles and drove in 102 runs.

SYDNEY SCHEDULE

Who: U.S. women's softball team

When: Sept. 16-26

Opponents: Canada (Sept. 16), Cuba (Sept. 17), Japan (Sept. 18), China (Sept. 20), Australia (Sept. 20), New Zealand (Sept. 21), Italy (Sept. 23).

Qualifying: Top four advance to championship round on Sept. 25.

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