SALINAS, Calif. (KRON) — Team USA’s softball players are shining with silver medals as they return home from Japan this week.
Many Olympians are returning home to California, including superstar pitcher Monica Abbott.
The final game at the Tokyo Olympic Games was a tense battle between three pitching legends. Japan’s ace pitcher, Yukiko Ueno, was almost un-hittable on the mound.
The USA’s pitchers are called “fire and ice.” Cat Osterman ices batters with her drop ball. Abbott brings the heat; she can throw over 70 miles per hour.
“Her fastest pitch was recorded at 74 miles an hour,” Abbott’s father, Bruce, said.
Abbott grew up playing on the Salinas Storm softball team in Salinas, Calif.
KRON reporter Amy Larson was one of Abbott’s teammates on the Storm for several seasons.
They traveled the country together as teenagers pitching in ASA tournaments.
Even as a teenager, Abbott was already 6’3″ tall.
In addition to being naturally gifted athletically, the lefty had a fiery competitive spirit and hard work ethic. Most players who competed with Abbott, or against her, knew she would one day be an Olympian.
Before this summer, the world’s greatest softball players were kept on the Olympic sidelines for 13 years.
As the host country, Japan made sure that softball was included as a sport for 2020.
Japan takes softball seriously.
Its professional league is the best in the world, and athletes like Abbott play for Japan’s pro league.
Abbott has spent the past 11 years pitching in Japan, and during the gold medal game, she was throwing against some of her own Japanese teammates.
When the stakes were at their highest, Japan’s infield executed with some jaw-dropping plays.
The USA had runners on first and second when slugger Amanda Chidester drilled a line-drive at Japan’s third baseman.
The ball bounced off the third baseman’s wrist.
Shortstop Mana Atsumi caught the ball mid-air and made it into a double play by throwing out the runner on second.
“You have to give respect out to the Japanese team. They played hard. They did want they needed to do. They acted like a team and backed each other up,” Abbott’s father told KRON4.
With a solid defense behind her, Ueno threw a pitching masterpiece.
Abbott told the New York Times, “The coolest thing about her is that she constantly reinvents herself and attacks hitters in different ways. In some ways, she’s a softball god because things always go her way. She’s definitely a legend.”
Japan won 2-0 for gold. The emotions of the game were obvious after the final out.
Softball players won’t have another shot at winning gold for eight years. Softball was cut from the 2024 Summer Olympics in France, but it will be back in the lineup for 2028 in Los Angeles.
Abbott’s family is very proud of her Olympic performance.
“I am exceptionally proud of her. I’m proud of everything she’s done,” Bruce Abbott said.
Bruce Abbott said his daughter may return to the Olympic competition one day, either as a player or as a coach.
“In eight years … I’m sure she will feel a strong desire to go out there and take up the ball. But maybe she will take another route, and take on coaching of the next Olympic teams,” he said.