The players at the Women’s College World Series have a wide variety of heroes from the past, ranging from Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman to Stacey Nuveman and Mickey Mantle.
Yes, the Commerce Comet’s legendary status has even reached over into the softball realm this week at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Meet Maddie O’Brien, the Florida State power hitter who is most likely the only 20-something Florida woman with a deep appreciation for the 1960s New York Yankees star.
O’Brien wears the Mick’s jersey No. 7, and she can tell you about his injury history and the bad knees that limited his career.
In fact, that’s one of the things that connects her to Mantle.
“I’ve gone through three ankle surgeries, and that’s where I stuck with him, because of his fight through all those injuries and still wanting to play the game,” O’Brien said. “Him having to quit so young because of the injuries, it helped me focus and push through and never give up because of the ankle injuries.”
Like Mantle, O’Brien is a dangerous power hitter. The junior is second nationally with 24 home runs with just 17 strikeouts. She was a finalist for National Player of the Year, and her bat is a big reason the Seminoles made it back to the WCWS for the first time since 2004.
O’Brien’s father was a big baseball fan, which bred her passion for softball and connected her to baseball history.
“One day, we watched the movie ‘61*’ and although it shows a lot of Mickey Mantle’s bad side, I fell in love with his baseball passion,” O’Brien said.
This isn’t her first time in Oklahoma City, and she always makes a trip to visit the Mantle statue outside the Bricktown Ballpark, and the Mickey Mantle Steakhouse across the street.
But it doesn’t stop with Mantle. O’Brien’s most recent addition to her list of legendary baseball figures is Ted Williams.
“I’m a lefty and so was he, and he was called the ‘Splendid Splinter,’” she said. “ Before the season, my dad showed me a picture of his swing next to one of mine, and it was very similar.”
And her love of baseball doesn’t stop with historical stars.
“She’s the kind of kid who will go up to watch batting practice with the Tampa Bay Rays and will stay until the ninth inning, no matter what the score is,” FSU coach Lonni Alameda said. “There’s a lot we can learn from baseball that translates to softball.
“Maddie really is a student of the game, and I credit that to her family and her father. She just truly enjoys the game.”