Work in Sports
Dot Richardson, U.S. Softball, second baseman
Dot Richardson captained the U.S. softball team that took gold in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. CNNSI.com caught up with Richardson in her new role at second base for the American squad.
1. What has it been like moving from shortstop to second base?
It was very difficult in the beginning, because the two positions are very opposite from each other. Anyone who understands the two positions in baseball and softball understands that at second it is more difficult, because you are actually moving in the opposite direction from a lot of balls.
2. How so?
When a player bunts, you have to cover first base. Then, there are pick-offs. And on every fielding backhand, you come up throwing from an awkward position. Also, as a shortstop, you love to express your throws. At second, you are too close to do that.
3. Why did you make the move?
The transition was made because, I believe, as an athlete I have the ability to do it. Crystl Bustos, who is now at short, does not have the make-up of a second baseman. I am much shorter and am agile and quick. So, by her and I both being on the field at the same time, the team is stronger with both of our sticks in the lineup.
4. That explains how it was a difficult physical transition. Was it difficult psychologically, as well?
That was the biggest adjustment that I had to make. Here, I had been considered the best shortstop in the world. I had been, you know, All-World Shortstop, Olympic gold-medalist at short, and now I am having to change my game at the end of my career. That is not easy to handle. But when you put egos aside and look at what is better for the team, then you say, ‘this is my role,’ and you do it.
5. Have you put your ego aside?
I definitely put my ego aside, or I wouldn’t have accepted this role on the team. And I wouldn’t have proven that I could do it. I can’t tell you how many people have patted me on the back and told me, ‘Hey, you did it.’ See, I have dominated this sport as a shortstop for 20 years, but I would like to say that, hopefully, I’ve been a dominating force in this sport not just as a shortstop – but also as a team player.
6. Do you identify, then, with what Cal Ripken, Jr. has had to go through, moving from short to third at the end of his career in Baltimore?
Oh, yeah. You have to break away from your supposed identity. It’s tough.
7. What will it mean for women’s sports in the U.S. if both the softball and soccer teams win gold medals in 2000, as they did in 1996?
We saw the spark that launched soccer after the Olympic gold medal in 1996. You saw it in the World Cup. And people don’t realize that is also happening in softball. In the 18-and-under age category, softball is the largest growing sport since 1996. Both sports have grown and with the Olympics, there is a thirst that all young athletes feel to be the best and to represent their country. With every softball game this year being televised, all of these athletes will realize their dreams can come true through softball.
8. How has the attention increased for the U.S. softball team this Olympics compared to last?
Oh my gosh, from interviews to recognition from other athletes, softball is being recognized as a power sport for the United States. When I was growing up, I never thought that I was respected by other athletes as a softball player. I thought at UCLA that if I made the varsity basketball team, I’d be respected as a good athlete, and I did. But now that respect can be earned in softball.
9. What are your plans after the Olympics?
I may try to go to Tahiti afterward and really enjoy being in this part of the world.
10. Have you tried any vegemite since you’ve been here?
This is my fourth trip to Australia. I’ve tried vegemite in the past.