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Old Faithful

Cornell Douty Relishes Role of Olympic Grandma


At 38, Sheila Cornell Douty is the grande dame of the U.S. Olympic softball team.

Few Olympic athletes are older.

And Douty's young, good-natured teammates never let her forget it.

"Every once in a while I get, 'Hey, Grandma,' " she said.

Yet, it's a moniker the power-hitting first baseman doesn't seem to mind.

She inherited the nickname when she married Joel Douty of Diamond Bar on New Year's Eve 1997. Sheila Douty instantly became stepmother to Joel's three teenagers and later . . . a step-grandmother.

But when it comes to slugging screwballs and scooping bad throws out of the dirt, Douty's game is anything but old.

"Knock on wood . . . I've still got it," she said.

Douty, a 1980 Taft High graduate, has been blasting pitches with regularity since she started her softball career at Shoup Park in Woodland Hills nearly three decades ago.

"She's had a few problems with her legs," Olympic Coach Ralph Raymond said. "But when you [hit balls] out of the park, you can just trot around the bases. And that's what she does."

Douty, the second-oldest member of the Olympic team, isn't ready for a rocking chair.

She thought she was headed into retirement after collecting a team-high 11 hits and nine runs batted in as cleanup hitter for the gold-medal winners in the 1996 Atlanta Games. But Douty never walked away from the game.

She took up water skiing and snow skiing but continued to play softball nationally and abroad.

"As I kept playing, one year melted into the next and, 'Oh, my gosh, the Olympics are right around the corner,' " she said.

With superior showings in New Zealand's South Pacific Classic and Japan's World Championships in 1998, and the Canada Cup, Pan American Games and U.S. Olympic Cup in 1999, Douty's stock continued to soar.

Although she isn't as loose or agile as she was in her 20s, and has been slowed by muscle pulls in her late 30s, she's shown little decline as she approaches 40.

"She's young at heart," Raymond said.

Raymond said Douty's commitment, attitude and work ethic have never changed since she started playing for his world-class Raybestos Brakettes team in 1986.

"That's the kind of player a coach loves to have around," Raymond said.

"I was happy that the selection people brought her back for me."

Douty, a UCLA graduate who has a master's degree from USC, deserves a doctorate in softball.

She has participated in seven U.S. Olympic Festivals, six Pan Am Games and led UCLA to NCAA titles in 1982 and '84. Twice she led the Amateur Softball Assn. women's major division in home runs.

Her play is still awe-inspiring to some of the brightest talents in the game.

"She's awesome," said Crystl Bustos, the Olympic shortstop who bats cleanup. "It's great to have someone like that behind me because they can't walk me."

Still, Douty acknowledges father time is creeping up on her. She can no longer field 100 consecutive ground balls without taking a breather.

Douty will be 42 in the 2004 Olympics, so it's unlikely she will play in a third Olympics.

But she's already defied the odds.

"I'm taking it one year at a time," she said. "But I'd be shocked if you see me in the next Olympics."



Age: 38

Birthplace: Encino

High School: Taft

College: UCLA

Honors: Led the U.S. to the 1998 world title with four home runs and 12 runs batted in during the tournament. Also a major contributor for the U.S. in its gold-medal effort in the Atlanta Games with a .393 average and nine RBIs. She helped UCLA win two national titles and is in the school's Hall of Fame. Eleven-time ASA All-American.


What: Women's softball

When: Sept. 17-26

Where: Blackton Softball Center

Qualifying: Round-robin play will be Sept. 17-23; semifinals Sept. 25.

Medal rounds: Bronze on Sept. 25; Gold-Silver game on Sept. 26.

Medal Favorites: U.S., Australia, China

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