Alissa Haber Breaks RBI Record – now at 19

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More on Haber and the USA Women’s team after the jump.
(from the USA Softball website)

Softball’s next generation keeping U.S. at high level

Mike Miazga, Red Line Editorial June 30, 2010

The goal for U.S. national team athletes is to one day compete at the highest level of their particular sport. For most sports, that means the Olympic Games.

When softball was taken off the Olympic program following the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, many expected the sport to struggle. There wouldn’t be any motivation for the top players to keep playing.

Think again.

Although softball will not be played at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Team USA members are as excited and as motivated as ever to don the red, white and blue — especially now with the team in Venezuela competing for its seventh consecutive world championship. The medal round begins today.

“I am upset that softball isn’t in the Olympics anymore, but that would never stop me from playing the sport I love,” said U.S. outfielder Alissa Haber, a Stanford alum in her second year with the national team. “Just being able to put on the USA uniform, in any venue, is a dream come true for me. It is a privilege to be on this team and my love for the game will always be the reason I play.”

Some of the young players have been playing on the U.S. futures national team, which features college players and athletes with some program experience.

U.S. futures national team pitcher/infielder Megan Langenfeld, fresh off being named the MVP of the 2010 College Softball World Series after helping UCLA win the NCAA title, is motivated by the high level of play she encounters in practice and on the field.

“It’s a constant challenge,” Langenfeld said. “I’m being challenged by the best of the best. We played against the national team and that was a hard task. I like being challenged. There is always room for improvement. That’s what keeps me motivated. I love the game. I always want to strive for perfection in a very difficult game.”

The positive attitudes emitting from the younger players is nothing but good news for the U.S. program in terms of a long-term outlook.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Team USA infielder Tammy Williams. “There are lots of different personalities on the team. Everybody has fun and has a good time with it. That’s not the case with every team.”

Williams noted that the squad’s veteran players have accepted the younger players, such as herself and pitcher Eileen Canney, with open arms.

“Some of the girls have been on the team for a few years,” she said. “Eileen and I are the newer ones this year. A lot of them are a couple of years older. They take care of everyone and make sure everybody is where they are supposed to be. We’ve got a good mix of ages and a good mix of girls from different parts of the country.’’

Some members of the team have earned multiple Olympic medals. Some even are mothers who take their children on the road for games. And now there is a new generation of players coming through as well.

“There are a lot of leaders on the team that step up in different ways,’’ Canney said. “We’ve got some wild ones and we’ve got some ones who step back and take care of what everyone else doesn’t. They all have ways of leading and making sure everything gets accomplished.”

Haber has also been impressed with how she has been received by her teammates since she joined the program.

“I can’t say enough about how much the older players have helped me in the year I have been a member of this team,” Haber said. “They, more than anyone, understand the pressure being put on you as a member of the world’s best softball team and they have all helped me adjust to the level of play and the stress that comes along with it.”

Haber appreciates the fact the older players communicate with her about her play.

“Even when we are in the thick of competition, they are always willing to give me honest critiques on my at-bats, share insight on the pitcher we are facing or offer advice on my outfield play,’’ Haber said. “It is always reassuring knowing your teammates have your back like that.”

Members of both the national and future national teams point out another thing that keeps them motivated to play at the elite level: The opportunity to pass on their knowledge to future generations of softball players.

“That’s another thing that motivates me to play for this team,” Haber said. “Even though I won’t get to go to the Olympics, I want to do as much as I can to ensure that those future generations of young girls can have the same dreams that I did when I was their age. By continuing to play in these events, we are working to keep the game of softball relevant in the global sports scene and keeping the dream of its Olympic reinstatement alive.”

Players in the U.S. program hope other girls can experience the distinct thrill of putting on the USA jersey for the first time.

“It was the most amazing feeling,” Williams remembered. “Growing up, that was the dream and goal to actually be there and put that uniform on. It’s not something I can really describe. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.”

Added Haber: “It was surreal, to say the least. I started in left field the first game we played in Canada and I have never sprinted out to the grass so quickly. I remember everything I did was at double speed because I was so eager to prove myself.”

Both U.S. teams will get another shot of adrenaline when they play in the KFC World Cup July 22-26 in Oklahoma City at the ASA of America’s Hall of Fame Stadium — the annual site of the College Softball World Series and the home of USA Softball headquarters. The KFC World Cup features Team USA, Canada, Japan and the U.S. futures team.

“I’m very excited,” Williams said. “My family and friends are coming down. It is going to be a great atmosphere in Oklahoma City no matter what team you play for, let alone the U.S. team. It’s a great environment there. It’s always fun playing somewhere familiar. It’s a really special place.”

“There is no greater feeling than running onto the field to our fans in Oklahoma City,” Haber said. “I never knew how large our fan base was until the World Cup. It is wonderful seeing all the great fans from all over the country who come out to support us. Oklahoma City is the ultimate home-field advantage.”

Team USA coach Jay Miller said there is no better time for the U.S. program to show what it’s made of. The two U.S. teams will play at least two times at the World Cup.

“It’s going to be a great event for softball,” Miller said. “We’re playing in a great venue with great fans and ESPN will be there. This is the opportunity to put our best foot forward softball-wise for the world.”

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Mike Miazga is a freelance contributor for This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

Tags: Alissa Haber, Eileen Canney, Jay Miller, Megan Langenfeld, Mike Miazga, Tammy Williams, USA Softball

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