U.S. go for Pan Am gold, look for Olympic home run

Sat Jul 25, 2015 5:31pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

AJAX, Ontario (Reuters) - After the United States lost the softball gold to Japan at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Laura Berg and four teammates placed their cleats on home plate and walked away knowing they would never play again.

It was a symbolic gesture in more ways than one. The game would also be the last played on an Olympic diamond, the sport soon afterwards dropped from the Summer Games program.

While softball was ditched by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it remains a fixture at the Pan American Games and on Sunday the United States will be playing in the grand final.

The team that will take to the field in Ajax will be composed of a generation of players that grew up with that Olympic dream only to have it snatched away, and Berg, a four-time Olympian and three-time gold medalist, will be there as part of the U.S. coaching staff.

"All these young ladies grew up with softball being an Olympic sport and they started their careers with that being a goal," Ron Radigonda, softball general secretary for the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), told Reuters.

"When it got taken out of the Games it was heartbreaking to every single one of them.

"We really owe it to them to get it back in the Games."

Almost since the day it was cut from the Olympics, softball has been making a pitch to get back in, and after years of striking out it looks ready to hit a home run with a possible return for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.   Continued...