Team USA has created a rift with softball's biggest star — and that's not good

Long before the first pitch of the World Cup of Softball was ever thrown, Team USA committed an error.
by Jenni Carlson Published: July 11, 2013

In addition, the International Olympic Committee is set to vote in September on whether softball will return to the Games in 2020. Any long-term decision that Ricketts would make would surely need to take that into consideration.

Maybe USA Softball is afraid the vote will go against softball. Maybe it wanted to lock up Ricketts before that vote just in case the sport is still out of the Olympics.

I mean, you can understand Team USA wanting to secure Ricketts' future with it. She is as big a star and as big a talent as college softball has produced in several years. She is the centerpiece of the national team for years to come.

And since softball has been out of the Olympics, turnover on Team USA has become an issue. Last year's roster looks very little like this year's. USA Softball simply doesn't have the money anymore to pay players enough to keep them on the team once their college days are done.

USA Softball is taking steps to address that, asking every player on the current roster to commit to play through at least next summer, which is a world championship year.

Only Ricketts was asked to put that commitment — and then some — in writing.

You can't blame Team USA for wanting to keep her around.

But saying the deal was non-negotiable? Refusing to budge when a player who's always been committed to the program asked for a little more time? Then implying that she quit the team?

Error. Error. Error.

And the last of those mistakes could end up being the most costly.

Late Wednesday, Ricketts took to Twitter to reiterate that she did not quit Team USA.

“Just wasn't given the freedom to make a decision that should have been made after the season was over,” she wrote. “I was always committed until the end of the summer, so don't believe everything you hear.”

Clearly, she is unhappy with the way USA Softball handled things.

USA Softball may be as miffed with her as she is with it. The difference is that Team USA needs her way more than she needs it. Without Ricketts, the team isn't as good and the brand isn't as vibrant.

If I'm USA Softball, I start trying to repair this relationship right away.

Team USA may very well win the World Cup of Softball this week — it is still an extremely talented bunch — but one day, the errors that it has made will hurt it unless it rallies and quickly.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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