Craig Grau: A Dream Team's requiem - Tucson Local Media: Sports

Craig Grau: A Dream Team's requiem

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Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 11:00 pm

To what goal should a young maven of the softball diamond aspire?

The Olympic era of 12-inch cross-stitchery is headed Jurassic, jettisoned from the 2012 London Games, while badminton’s shuttlecocks survive among the baseboards, roach-like.

When the International Olympic Committee voted in 2005 to snuff softball, talk persisted that the American girls’ dominance painted them out of the international batter’s box.

After all, Mike Candrea’s squad outscored their prey 51-1 four years ago in Athens. And Team USA just bombed Venezuela 11-0 atop former Wildcat Jennie Finch’s pitching the other day.

You can practically hear the “Team America: World Police” theme play in Beijing, in encore.

Perhaps softballers can plead their case and restore their game back to the ticket in time for an American homecoming — as Chicago stands among the front-runners for the 2016 Games.

But at the moment, after this gold rush, the vein runs dry.

For ladies’ fast-pitch, the Olympics were the sport’s pinnacle; a peak to conquer after summiting the collegiate ranks, said Canyon Del Oro coach Amy Swiderski.

“Little boys can dream about playing in the big leagues,” Swiderski said. “Our (dream) was the Olympics. We’re going to have to do a lot of work to get our showcase back.”

With repeat state titles in hand and heads cocked in disappointment, the Lady Dorados are less than thrilled over the IOC’s smackdown, the coach said.

Swiderski’s happy with her own post, farming Division I and II scholarship athletes after riding her own talents to a college degree. The drive to carve a niche and succeed is the sort of benefit that sports offer to athletes of any stripe.

Having the world stage yanked out from under a youngster’s hopes, well, that just stings, though.

“It’s really disappointing that we don’t have a lot of opportunities past college,” Swiderski said.

Pro softball, where players average $4,700 for a three-month season, amounts to a nice summer gig for women who’ve moved on to coaching NCAA teams.

To retake medal play, the IOC’s likely going to look for the sport’s global growth.

But as youth leagues like Pusch Ridge Little League continue to decimate, kids over the water might just stick with soccer.

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