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Women's College World Series: Hair bows and grit co-exist on the softball field

Eye black can make a player look intimidating. But the hair bow remains a symbol of the softball subculture.
BY CODY STAVENHAGEN Published: May 29, 2014
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photo - Oregon's Nikki Udria (3) and Sammie Puentes (5) wear ribbons in their hair during the Women's College World Series softball game between Florida State and Oregon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday, May 29, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Oregon's Nikki Udria (3) and Sammie Puentes (5) wear ribbons in their hair during the Women's College World Series softball game between Florida State and Oregon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday, May 29, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

There is a level of personality and expression that really is unique to softball, and it goes beyond bows.

Kentucky players recently started wearing Wildcat blue eyeliner. It started with one player, then it took off. Now, Smith said, some players are superstitious about it.

Oregon players like to dance, but their weirdest quirk is having a rubber snake in their dugout at all times. Players named it Seth, and he’s usually wearing — you guessed it — a bow.

“We have no problem with our players expressing themselves,” Ducks coach Mike White said. “Our pet snake has his own Twitter page, so it's all good for me. But in all seriousness, it's the way they stay relaxed. It's the way they feel good to play, and if it helps us win I'm all for it.”

That opinion was a consensus among the eight coaches at the WCWS. It’s that eccentricity that makes the sport beautiful. ULL pitcher Christina Hamilton can become a cult hero for wearing lenseless, black-rim glasses. Fans can come from Alaska and reserve their vacations for the big event in Oklahoma City. Players can smile during the most important game of their lives, and that’s perfectly fine.

“If you're in the dugout with these kids and you know what's going on, they're intense and fierce competitors,” ULL coach Michael Lotief said. “To me, the fact that these kids can play under the pressure they play under and still smile and still cheer and still relax and still have fun, to me it's a talent.”

From bows and eyeliner to chants and snakes, the personality in softball is the essence of what makes the Women’s College World Series a way of life, a subculture, a ritual.

“I love our sport because we don't have to be stoic and follow the traditional rules of baseball,” Lotief said. “You can have your own personalities. We can have our celebrations at home plate after home runs. You can show emotion. You can do a dog pile.

“You can cheer in the dugout, you can have all that fun. I think that's why our fan base loves our sport, because we don't try to suppress all that.”


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