Thursday, July 11, 2013

Keilani Ricketts Dropped From Team USA

I can honestly say that that is a headline that I never expected to write. But the news broke yesterday that Keilani Ricketts, 2012 & 2013 National Player of the Year and one of the finest players to ever put on a softball uniform, would not be participating in any further events as a member of Team USA. As the expected anchor of the national team's pitching staff, as well as one of their best hitters, this move came as quite a shock.

Other than the fact that Keilani's time in the red, white, and blue is apparently done, the other details of the roster move and this situation are sketchy and in dispute between the two "sides".

Ricketts, for her part, tweeted the following on Tuesday, just after 11:00 pm Central time.

Team USA, as seen in this article, says that it was Ricketts' choice not to play for the national team, calling it a "business decision" and noting that the decision caught USA Softball "off-guard".

It's a classic case of "he said-she said", but here's what is known thus far: The issue seems to have arisen over a long-term contract that USA Softball offered Ricketts to be the new "face of the National team". Ricketts apparently wanted to make a decision after this summer's games were done, but was told that she needed to give a yes or no answer before the World Cup of Softball (taking place in Oklahoma City today through Sunday). According to Ricketts, she was also told the contract was non-negotiable.

This video features a brief report from KTUL news in Tulsa. It appears to be the most accurate report presented at this point in time. - Tulsa, Oklahoma - News, Weather

Keilani's sister Samantha, a former Sooner and professional star herself, has been a great help in supplying information as this situation has carried on.

Personally, I'm strongly inclined to believe the Ricketts' side of this saga. Going off just the evidence I have, it seems to me that Team USA gave her an ultimatum that she couldn't agree to, so they dropped their best player off the squad. And I will say this - if that is what happened, it was an extremely petty and frankly stupid move on the part of the national team. 

After softball was dropped from the Olympics a few years back, a number of long-time members of Team USA (including Jessica Mendoza, Vicky Galindo, Natasha Watley, etc) chose to end their international careers and concentrate on growing the National Pro Fastpitch league. Between last summer and this, several of the team's stars and veterans, including Stacy May-Johnson, Chelsea Thomas, and Jordan Taylor, parted ways with the national team. 

With a lot of fresh blood and exciting young players putting on the red, white, and blue this summer, I was excited to see the US continue it's dominant run at the top of the game. But after this move, despite the numerous other superstars on the squad (read: Lauren Gibson, Lauren Chamberlain, Raven Chavanne, among others), I no longer feel 100% assured of a Team USA triumph this summer. You can't just lose your pitching ace a week before competition starts and suffer no ill-effects.

I am glad to see that Keilani plans to continue her career in Japan, and possibly also begin her professional career in the United State as a part of the NPF. With the talent that the young lady possesses, I'm glad she plans to continue to play ball, at least for the immediate future.

Cheridan (that's the correct spelling, not "Sheridan" as has been quoted in numerous publications) Hawkins has been promoted from the Junior National Team that just wrapped up their games to take Ricketts' place on Team USA.

EDIT: Just prior to posting, I came across this article from the Norman Transcript. It tells Keilani's side of the story, and seems to contain the best information I've seen thus-far.

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