Work in Sports
Berg keeps life in perspective after game-winner
SYDNEY, Australia -- U.S. center fielder Laura Berg was looking for a little redemption when she stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning of the softball gold-medal game Tuesday night. Feeling rotten after allowing a hit by Japan's Reika Utsugi go over the fence for a solo homer in the fourth inning, she wanted to make amends to pitcher Lisa Fernandez. "I should have caught that ball," Berg said later. "So I felt like I needed a big hit. I told Lisa, 'I owe you one.' "
And so, with the score tied 1-1 and Dot Richardson on first, Jennifer McFalls on second and a light rain starting to soak the field, Berg stepped into the batter's box. A "table-setter" who specializes in slap hits and bunts, she had been told by U.S. coach Ralph Raymond to swing away. When she saw the right pitch, she hit it solidly to Japan's left fielder, Shiori Koseki, who got a piece of it, then slipped and fell backward, causing the ball to pop out of her glove. "When I saw that, I knew Jen would wheel around and cross the plate," said Berg after the game. "It is a thrill to get the big hit, but I think this whole team showed a lot of heart. For us, there was no tomorrow."
Berg is undaunted by that prospect, and says that Kidd's experience keeps things in perspective for her. "You cherish every little thing," says Berg. "You cherish the trees and the grass and the animals and your family. Especially your family. You cherish every minute you have with them. You take that extra 30 seconds before you leave the house to give them a hug or call them up to say, 'Hi, I love you.' "
Berg, the only U.S. softball player in Sydney who had no family in town for the Olympics, had called them back in the states, where it was 3 a.m., with news of the win before she sat down at the press conference. "I told them they could all go back to sleep," she says.
It may have been the gold-medal game, but it was still just a game.
SI For Women staff writer Kelli Anderson is in Sydney covering the Games for the magazine and CNNSI.com. Check back to read Anderson's behind-the-scenes reports from Down Under.