Okay, so here’s the next blog installment off of my instagram post, courtesy of @lynzee07: “[Blog] about your softball career from when you were tiny to now.”
Thanks for the post lynzee07- the truth is, I’ve never really been tiny! Even when I was young I was still the tall kid on the team! Normally, I share this story at speaking events or appearances. (to book a speaking event or other visit: http://monicaabbott.com/contact-monica-abbott/) but per request here’s a very, simplified version, sparing some details but not all!
I started playing softball when I was really young. My older sister Jessica, came home one day from school with a flyer to sign up for Bobby Sox Softball (Recreation league), in which she wanted to play. So, my mom (who had actually played Bobby Sox as well) signed us both up! I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just following Jessica, she was good at softball… me…meh… not so much. I was having crazy growth spurts all the time, I was afraid of the ball and left-handed which made it awkward for me to learn from right-handed coaches. So I was more of a tag-along than an actual player. But, I liked softball for the cheers, the snacks and the friends!
Jessica, like most kids, eventually started pitching. When she finally got a pitching lesson, I of course ended up catching for her. It was awful. And I was an awful catcher. The pitching coach however; he had a different idea, he suggested that I try pitching. Since, Jessica pitched I eventually tried it, and latched on too it. It was my favorite part of the day. It was my escape from a bad day at school; it was my reward for a good day. When, I was pitching it felt right. So I practiced, and I practiced and I practiced. I practiced with my mom, by myself, with a net, with a wall, with a sock. Pitching helped me not be so shy. It helped me like softball for more than the snacks and cheers. I set some goals, and my first and only Goal was to pitch in the Olympics so I practiced some more.
I went to North Salinas High School, where they tried to get me to play Volleyball but I just wasn’t interested. I did end up playing basketball, which I really liked, for fun in the off-season but my heart was always with Softball. I worked on getting a pitch that would take me to college. For me it was my rise ball. It took me to the U. of Tennessee.
At the U. of Tennessee I kept trying to evolve as a pitcher and it eventually brought me too the USA National team in 2005-all the way through 2010. Including the 2008 Olympic games. Where, I knew my role was behind thee Cat Osterman, but instead I worked to compete to be in the circle in the end. At the Olympics I threw the first ever perfect game, and the semi-final win vs. Japan.
After the Olympics were over, I got an offer to play in the Japan Softball League (JSL) for Toyota Motor Corporation. I was hesitant. In the end, I decided that I should go and give it a shot, for at least one year. That one-year changed my life, and helped me fall back in love with softball, it helped teach me about myself outside of college. I’ve been playing for Toyota ever since.
My NPF career hasn’t been as smooth. The Washington DC Glory drafted me in 2007 where we won the championship, but the next year, I took off for the 2008 Olympics. The team ended up struggling financially and ended up being bought by the USSSA Pride, I played one season with them and then was involved in a controversial trade that sent me to the Diamonds. At this point I thought I would be done with the NPF. In the following off-season, fresh off of Jennie Finch’s retirement, Bill Sokolis of the Chicago Bandits approached me to come play for Chicago, one of the long-standing professional teams. At first I said no, I didn’t want to play in the NPF anymore, especially after several years of being pushed, pulled and misled in the NPF. He kept at me though, and I continued to say no. Finally, after a lot of conversation and convincing him to bring my catcher, Shannon Doepking, with me did I say "okay". I told him, for one year, I’ll try and if it wasn’t what he said than I was done. It turned out to be a great decision.
I currently play with the Chicago Bandits and Toyota Motor Corporation. I’m hoping to play for as long as I can and in the process leave an impact in the minds and lives of kids, parents, coaches and fans of this sport, by leaving it better than it was when I started playing the game.
Monica Abbott #14
My Career Collage:
L-R: Bobby Sox, U. of Tennessee, 2008 Olympics, World Championships, Toyota, and Chicago Bandits.