Former Olympic softballers joined a recent podcast to talk about their experiences and memories of the Olympic Games, and specifically about the Athens 2004 Games, where Australia and USA collided for the gold medal.
There are not so many chances to hear four softball legends, with a total of 16 Olympic medals around their necks, speaking about the game and their Olympic memories. If they are hosted by another Olympian herself, then it turns a no-brainer for any softball fan. Former infielder Jenn Yee hosted four members of the Olympic softball royalty during a podcast: Mel Roche and Natalie Titcume from Australia; and Laura Berg and Crystl Bustos from the USA.
“The inspiration for this episode is the Athens Gold Medal Game between USA and Australia,” said Yee, a Beijing 2008 Olympian herself.
“You can watch this game in full on the WBSC website and I got to say I’m a little ashamed that it took 16 years for me to see it. But for the first time watching it, I was immediately inspired.”
If you speak about Olympic softball, one of the top names that comes to mind is Lisa Fernandez.
“She was so good at changing the way she threw against you every time, so you never got the same thing,” said Titcume, a three-time Olympic medallist catcher.
“She’d be working on the drop ball one game, so you will be focused on that the next time…That’s the way she got me out the last time…And then, she would be throwing rise balls, curve balls and change ups the next time. You never got a comfortable feeling facing her.
“Most pitchers at an international level, under stress, they have their go-to pitch, so as an international hitter you make adjustments. But Fernandez was so different. Not many pitchers have the quality pitches that she had, she actually had mastery of four, five pitches. She was unbelievable.”
Roche, a long-time Australian pitcher talked about being the ace of the team.
“It’s when you say ‘I want the ball, give me the ball, I’ll do it’. I wasn’t as good as Lisa in the attention to detail, everyday, on and off the field.
“That’s insane. She was very disciplined in every way of her life. Her competitiveness has been unmatched on the world stage.”
The Athens 2004 softball competition was won by USA Softball.
“Speaking purely in the terms of talent, this team is one of the best teams have never been assembled. Michael Jordan has the ’92 Dream Team, this would be the 2004 Dream Team,” said Yee.
“It was kind of surreal,” said Berg, a four-time Olympic medallist with three golds and one silver.
“I’ve been on teams where this person is on fire, and that person is on fire; you can’t get them out, you can’t stop them. But it literally was the whole team…Every single person was just hitting on all cylinders, it was unbelievable to be part of it.”
“They were the perfect storm, in a very positive way. They were the perfect competitive beast if you like. I know that’s a massive compliment, but they were at that particular time. They had the perfect mix,” said Roche.
Three-time Olympic medallist Bustos, who holds the record of most home runs in the Olympics, tried to learn from every at bat: “People look at striking out as a bad thing; I look at striking out like if you struck me out, I know what pitch you’re going to throw me first the next time I see you. So I’m doing well the next time, it doesn’t bother me.”
The last topic was about the Olympic Games as an event.
“The Olympic Games are the pinnacle of softball. The very, very top, you cannot get any higher than that,” said Berg.
“It’s very special to be up to represent your country, to be able to make the Olympics and to be a part of it. But at the same time, it’s just another game…You still get three out per half inning. The game doesn’t get bigger than itself.”