|June 5, 2005
5:30 p.m. - Will Rogers World Airport, Oklahoma City, OK
As Im sure those of you that have been keeping tabs on my WCWS diary noticed by my lack of a late-night entry, the team dinner ended up turning into an all night dance-away-our-frustrations-athon at Russells, the hoppin hotel bar back at the Marriott. Before we get lost in the nights festivities though, lets go back to the beginning of the day when, at 9:12 a.m. we thought the Tecate would settle better with a few chocolate Moon Pies to snuggle with in our stomachs, so the tailgate got underway a bit late. The crew and I popped our first tops of the day - marking the earliest time barley and hops has ever entered the Troescher tummy cavity.
At 10:00 a.m., we loaded into rental car #2 the appropriately named Rendezvous and rolled into the ASA Softball Complex representing for the 510 with windows down and Tupacs "California Love" blaring from the speakers. After bottled brew numero dos it was cheer practice time aka get-ESPNs attention time inside the stadium. The session worked a bit better than I would have liked - resulting in my on-camera interview with Holly Rowe in the 6th inning - but I blame that more on the softball parents than the pre-game practice.
Somehow they managed to convince Ms. Rowe that they had flown me in specifically to cheer at the ballgame. Silly parents. But as much as I act like I didnt enjoy the attention the interview was fun, and Im all for doing anything I can to get the greatest public university in the world more air time than our opponent.
Ive got to hand it to the rest of the Cal contingent though. I told them before the game and the feeling remains as strong as ever after yesterdays marathon. In my opinion, Cal softball fans Cal softball parents being the elite members of the group make up the loudest, most attentive, most excited, and most intelligent fans in sports.
From the Cal spell-out we did right before the team was introduced, to the consistently overpowering "Cal-i-for-nia" (clap, clap, clap clap clap) and "C-A-L" cheers we performed instantly upon hearing the "Ar-i-zo-na" and "U-of-A" yells from across the diamond, to the "Go-Go-Galindo" yells they were still hollering in the top of the 10th inning when even I was ready to pass out from heat and dehydration. The fans were one, of if not the, reason the girls were able to comeback and push the game into extra innings.
Even the 5th inning rally should be attributed in large part to the "Right Now Bears!" that echoed throughout the stadium - which I believe started the 2-run burst that tied the game - prior to shortstop Chelsea Spencers leadoff single.
If its not obvious by now, writing about more in-game incidents isnt going to get the point across anyway. So Ill leave the cheering tangent and return to the rest of the day by saying I LOVE CAL SOFTBALL FANS. THEY ARE AMAZING. I WANT TO BUY THEM ALL A YEARS SUPPLY OF TECA well you get the idea.
And if youre reading this self-indulgent blog, Im positive you already know how the game ended. So Im going to skip the most difficult part of the day and go directly to the post-game consoling party that took place behind the right field fence. But first, its time to board my flight back to Oakland.
9:14 p.m. United Airlines Flight 505, Somewhere in the air over the Southwest United States
Where was I? Oh right, post-game. All the expected emotions were present - frustration, sadness and regret. Juniors Lindsay James and Haley Woods told me to get my hands on something for them to hit, because they liked my face too much. Senior Kaleo Eldredge found my shoulder an excellent soaking point for the tears of anger and sadness she was shedding for one taking responsibility for the winning run crossing the plate, even though the runner would have beaten the most accurate of throws and two ending her Cal career with only one NCAA championship ring.
Fellow seniors Vicky Galindo and Chelsea Spencer slowly made their way through the crowd of fans looking dazed from the abrupt end to their amazing careers, yet proud of all the things they accomplished during their four years on the squad. Knowing they had given all they could to the Cal program, and have left it today in very good shape for the years to come.
All three are already on their way to play more ball, Galindo at the National Team Trials in Chula Vista; Spencer and Eldredge for the New York/New Jersey Juggernauts of the National Pro Fastpitch softball league.
Never the type of team to dwell in defeat - especially after putting in as much effort as the girls did yesterday - the exhausted Cal family soon packed up its gear, made a quick stop back at the hotel to freshen up, and carpooled over to the local County Line Barbeque restaurant for its last few hours of togetherness.
Worth mentioning from the time at the County Line is the rib-eating competition that went down at the players' table. The self-designated and Kate-approved winner was none other than right fielder Alex Sutton, though senior Gwen Arafiles put up a valiant fight. By the time both were finished competing, I was sure that an entire cow had passed by the lips of each contestant. Yet the two left the restaurant under their own power and Arafiles proceeded to match me dance-move-for-dance-move during the last stop of the evening - at the previously-mentioned hotel bar proving that Cal softball players can be resilient both on and off the field.
By 12:30 a.m. the once overly packed party table had dwindled to a small gathering, including Oklahoman bride-to-be Stacey, one of the many blondes whose night was made by the teams Bay Area booty shaking. (Best of luck to you Stacey! Remember, its bend, hold one and two then snap.) Less than five hours later, the team was back on the bus, headed for the airport on their way back to Berkeley. And just like that, the whirlwind WCWS was over.
June 6, 2005
12:45 a.m. Finally back home, Berkeley, CA
I suppose I could continue at this point by talking about my travels home. Tell you about the food-coma inducing afternoon breakfast I had at the renowned Cracker Barrel restaurant earlier today. Go on and on about how I couldnt get enough of their sweet tea and corn bread. Then laugh at the fact that upon making it to back to my old buddy, the Denver Airport, around 7:15 p.m. tonight, I had time to pay Kristine at Leftys Bar and Grill one last visit thanks to my 8:28 p.m. connection to Oakland being delayed AGAIN! But this entry is long enough already, so I think Ill hold off and jump straight into my concluding thoughts instead. Following a quick late night snack. Be back soon.
1:48 a.m. Signing off
Id like to start the beginning of this blogs end by saying thank you to the entire Cal softball family, for making me feel so welcome and appreciated during my three and a half days in Oklahoma City. Id like to thank the crew, most notably Karen and Kristen, for housing me the past few days after I managed to make reservations at the wrong hotel. And most importantly, Id like to thank the girls of the 2005 California softball team.
Ive led cheers for a lot of teams, in a lot of games, in front of a lot of fans. Ive spent time with athletes from a number of sports over the past three years. Ive even played on a few Cal teams of my own. Of course, they were intramural soccer squads that played once a week, but thats besides the point. Point being, theres just something about our ladies that sets them apart.
The heart and determination they played with was unbelievable. After 10 innings in the hot, humid Oklahoma afternoon I was done. Cooked. Ready for bed. And all Id been doing was making noise every few minutes.
But these girls, our Bears, simply would not give up. Catcher Haley Woods told me after dinner last night that shed never felt so tired before in her entire career. That by the 11th inning, each time she went to squat she was unsure if she would have the strength to stand back up. Going so far as to compare her legs to "cement pillars" while attempting to describe how they felt in the last few innings of the game.
Heart. Strength. Determination.
If the oft used saying "The Bear Will Not Quit, The Bear Will Not Die" ever needed a photo stand-in for itself, after this weekend, Id know a team picture that would easily qualify to fill the space. And while the season didnt end as the seniors had hoped or any Cal fan had planned me representing the #1 person on that list that could be the most beautiful thing to emerge from the entire situation.
Not all stories, especially those revolving around sports - where anything that can happen usually does have a storybook ending. Players make mistakes; teams get lucky, games get lost. Its all a part of the larger picture we call life. And though I know Im biased, and only had a few minutes at a time to interact with the players, coaches, and fans from the other teams in the tournament, there are no other gals for whom I would have rather lost my voice than my very own Golden Bears.
Even in defeat, I flew home today proudly puffing out my Cal t-shirt wearing chest, replaying in my head the numerous interactions I had with the girls over my time covering the series. Still upset to see such a great group of seniors end their careers by going two and out at the WCWS, yet hopeful and excited about the future.
Remember, its gals like James and Woods - two competitors who hate losing and have long memories who are set to return to lead the Bears next season. And if their post-game passion is any indication of the road ahead, lets just say I wouldnt want to play for ANY other PAC-10 school come spring. Especially UCLA or Arizona.
The feelings of tournament greatness I talked about during my first few entries may not have panned out exactly as any of us hoped. Still, three straight trips to the NCAA title game is one hell of a feat. Four years in a row would have been unprecedented. And who knows, maybe it was for the best. If for no other reason than to keep the rest of the country interested in the sport.
Anyway, this entry has turned into an essay. Most of which Im sure has made little to no sense, so I think Im going to go wash up and head to bed. Oh, and one last thing.
Though disappointed with the finish at this years series, Im already counting the days until the 2006 softball season gets underway. If youre a Cal fan, I encourage you to do the same. Because like the old saying goes, revenge is sweet. And last time I checked, honey was a Bears favorite treat. So until snack time begins its been an honor. Heres to another wild Oklahoma City ride next year!
More pictures from Oklahoma City
Even the Oklahoma City weather was bummed that the Bears lost.
Shannon Harper and Lindsey James
Haley Woods, Haley's mom and former Cal great Jen Deering
Kristina Thorson, Erika Racklin, and Vicky Galindo
Kristina Thorson and Chelsea Spencer
How can we get one of these in Berkeley?
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