With the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on the horizon, the No. 1 ranked U.S. Women’s National Softball Team has been preparing for to showcase its ability on the global stage.
In a partnership with Major League Baseball and as a part of the Stand Beside Her tour, the national team trained at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in preparation for Tokyo. The facility was once the home of the Dodgers' Spring Training, and the site where the iconic Jackie Robinson once graced the field.
For some of Team USA’s players, the chance to train in Vero Beach, Fla., where Robinson is honored, has been a special opportunity, and something they’ll carry with them.
“It's one of those 'pinch me' moments that I get to do this,” catcher Amanda Chidester said. “I'm always going to look back at those moments, and nothing's going to compare to that. We got to train here, we got to prepare for the Olympics here, and I mean, not many people could say that.”
While at the facility, Team USA trained for an exhibition game against Italy’s Women’s National Softball Team, who are ranked 10th. USA beat Italy, 31-3, in the exhibition matchup on Wednesday at Space City Stadium in Viera, Fla.
The Jackie Robinson Training Complex features four softball fields and multiple indoor and outdoor facilities for batting and pitching practice. Training in Vero Beach and utilizing the facilities gave Team USA the ability to get the necessary preparation in for the summer games.
“I think it's really cool that we have like everything we need on campus so we can lift here, we can work out here and we live here for the night and stuff like that,” infielder Ali Aguilar said. “I think having everything in one area is really good for us. ... I think we're so excited that we're partnered with MLB and that's something so huge for us.”
With the opportunity to train at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex, some of Team USA’s members like infielder Delaney Spaulding said this opportunity can provide progress for the future of youth softball.
The softball training fields used by Team USA at the Florida complex are also used for youth softball. Spaulding believes that the No. 1 world ranked women’s softball team training on the same fields as youth softball can inspire the next generation of athletes.
And with the return of women’s softball to the Olympics for the first time since 2008, the dream to play for Team USA on the global stage can grow USA softball.
“I think it's awesome, because we're also playing on this field, so it's something that the young athletes, they can look to [it] and be like, ‘I can be playing here just like Team USA in X amount of years, and that's something that I can look forward to,’” Spaulding said. “That gives them a dream, I mean just like the Olympics.”
The USA Softball Women’s National Team will continue the Stand Beside Her tour with a June training camp in Texas in a lead up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which begin on July 21.