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Thursday, August 14, 2014

An Insight Into Team USA Women’s Baseball

I'll readily admit that, before 2012, I knew absolutely nothing about a Team USA for women's baseball. I didn't know the team existed, much less who was on it or what kind of games they played. Thanks to a heavy contingent of current and former softballers on the 2012 roster, I took note of the squad and loosely followed their games during the summer.
Alexa at Irish Senior Day in 2012

In the time sense, I've gained an appreciation for the squad and for the hard work the women on the team not only do to be the best in the sport, but also to promote and get coverage for their team and games.

I happen to know one member of that 2012 squad, Alexa Maldonado, formerly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. So I approached her about putting together this article about the team - who and why they are, what they do, and other queries of the sort. She was gracious enough to answer all of my questions, and I knew I wanted to present them to you today so that perhaps you might gain the same appreciation for these young ladies as I did.

If you have questions that I didn't ask Alexa in the interview, feel free to tweet her @alexa13maldi.


How long has the Team USA Women's baseball team been around?
The USA Baseball sanctioned the Women's National Team in 2004, where it competed in the 2004 Women's World Series and in the 2004 Women's World Cup of Baseball.

 ​I know there were quite a number of active and former softball players on the 2012 team... is the team mostly comprised of softballers past and present?
The answer to this question is a bit complex.  While we have a fair share of girls that are active and former softball players, a lot of them have come from baseball backgrounds.  With the age range being so wide (age 16 to around age 40), each girl has a different “story.” Some currently play high school baseball while others were told they had to play softball.  Some girls have made the switch over to softball in college, while a few have had the opportunity to play baseball in college.  Some played baseball growing up, and even played on one of the few professional women’s teams!  Every story is different.

I played baseball all through little league, was devastated when I “had” to make the switch over to softball, played softball at the University of Notre Dame, and finally came full circle playing the first game I fell in love with.

 How did you first hear about the team?
Summer going into my senior year, the USA Baseball Women’s National Team manager at the time reached out to my assistant coach at school asking if I would be interested in participating in the 2011 USA Baseball Women’s National Team Friendship Series.  That was the first time I had heard anything about a Women’s National Team.  I jumped on the opportunity in a heartbeat.

What are some differences between men's and women's baseball? Are there any?
For USA Baseball, the only difference between men’s and women’s baseball is that women play 7 innings while men play 9 innings.  Other than that the game itself is the same!

Other than the well-known and obvious ones, what kind of differences are there between playing softball and playing on the baseball team, for you personally?
When I look back on my college softball experience and compare it to my current baseball experience, I’ve needed to learn how to slow my game down.  As an outfielder in softball, it’s a quick “field and throw” mentality because things happen so fast.  As an outfielder in baseball, a little more time can be taken to field and throw because the larger field leaves more time.  It’s less rushed, but the hustle doesn’t change.  The other adjustment that I had to make was at the plate.  A hitter in softball is taught to look at the pitcher’s hip for the release of the ball.  A hitter in baseball is taught to look at the logo on the pitcher’s hat.  I’ve also had to work on letting the ball get deeper in the zone

 Is women's baseball something that is beginning to have a presence on an international stage?
Women’s baseball seems to be becoming more widely known on the international stage.  This September the 2014 VI Women's Baseball World Cup will be held in Miyazaki, Japan. In Japan, women’s baseball is much bigger than it is in the U.S., so it would be very interesting to experience if I get the opportunity!  Women’s baseball is making strides.

 How many games will the team play this year? Against who?
With the regional tryouts recently finishing up, the top 40 players have been selected to participate in the USA Baseball Women’s National Team Trials.  The final 20 are then selected to compete in the 2014 VI Women's Baseball World Cup which will be held in Miyazaki, Japan.  The National Teams that will be competing are Japan, USA, Australia, Canada, Venezuela, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, and Hong Kong. Each team will be competing in a total of 6 contests.  With a modified double round-robin format, no National Teams will play each other twice until the finals on Sunday, September 7th. You can find the schedule at this link.

 The lack of media coverage over the team is evident. Why do you think that is the case, and why do you believe the team deserves more and better media coverage?
The lack of media coverage for women’s baseball in the U.S. is due to women’s baseball not being as widely known here.  However, I do believe the team deserved more coverage.  When it comes down to it, this is a group of talented women who are representing their country.  Why don’t they deserve for people to see how hard they work to get there?  And who knows?  Maybe they’ll be impressed with what they see!

 Even though you were on the 2012 team, I believe you will still have to try out for this year's squad... after two years away, what's bringing you back to tryout again?
There is no feeling in the world that matches wearing the USA across your chess.  Being able to represent something so much bigger than you could ever imagine is overwhelmingly exciting and is complete honor.  Such a small amount of people ever get to experience something like this.  It is also amazing being part of a team that is selfless, has the best coaching staff in the world, and has one common goal.  To bring back the gold!  Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

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