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Fernandez hoping to save softball

September 18, 2007|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

Lisa Fernandez has returned to the USA national softball team after a three-year absence because she'd love to win a fourth Olympic gold medal, her rise ball is still good and her 2-year-old son Antonio might love the experience of seeing his mom go to the Olympics.

But mostly Fernandez wants to play in the Olympic Games in Beijing next summer because she desperately hopes that her play on the field and her salesmanship off it can help convince international Olympics officials that softball should not be dropped from the Games.

After joining the Olympics in 1996, softball has been voted off the schedule after the 2008 Beijing Games.

On Monday, the Amateur Softball Assn. of America announced the 18-woman roster for the 2008 USA Softball women's national team. The team was chosen after a camp in Chula Vista and will be cut to 15 for the Olympics.

The U.S. has won all three Olympic gold medals since 1996 and Fernandez, 36, said it's a daunting mission she has for the sport.

"I think it is this team's responsibility to showcase what the world is going to miss if we leave the Olympics," Fernandez said. "For us to play to the best of our ability and to showcase our sports, that's a major part of our mission."

Catcher Stacey Nuveman, like Fernandez a former UCLA star and also a new mom, said she also is aiming for Beijing in the hopes of making a difference. "It's an opportunity I've taken for granted because the Olympics, for the most part, have been there for me. The reason why some of us are staying around is because there is nothing like the Olympics."

Shortstop Natasha Watley, also a former UCLA star, called the Olympics "the prize at the end of the rainbow" for softball players.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) in a secret ballot voted softball, along with baseball, out of the Olympics two years ago.

Sources suggest that the European-influenced IOC voted out softball because the sport was dominated by the United States, Australia and Japan. Four years ago in Athens, the U.S. team won the gold medal and outscored opponents, 51-1.

Of the 18 players chosen, 15 are from California including former UCLA stars Fernandez, Watley of Irvine and Nuveman of La Verne and third baseman Andrea Duran of Selma, Calif. A fourth UCLA player, Tairia Flowers of Tucson, is also on the roster. Three members of the team -- Fernandez, Nuveman and pitcher Jennie Finch of La Mirada -- have given birth since the last Olympics.

Other members of the team include: pitcher Monica Abbott of Salinas, Calif.; three-time Olympic outfielder Laura Berg of Santa Fe Springs; Crystl Bustos of Canyon Country; Vicky Galindo of Union City; right-handed pitcher Alicia Hollowell of Suisun, Calif., and Arizona; Lovieanne Jung of Fountain Valley and Arizona; Kelly Kretschman of Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., and Alabama; Lauren Lappin of Anaheim; Caitlin Lowe of Tustin and Arizona who has been the national team leadoff hitter the last two years; Jessica Mendoza of Camarillo and Stanford; star Texas pitcher Cat Osterman; and catcher Jenny Topping of Whittier and Cal State Fullerton.


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