More than 125 girls ages 6-18 gathered at Sycamore High School on Saturday at a fast-pitch softball clinic featuring Dot Richardson, the captain of the 1996 U.S. Olympic gold-medalist softball team. CP:Richardson
"What I want you to take away with you today is how to learn to hit, field and love the sport even more than you do now," Richardson told the participants.
Richardson has dominated the rapidly growing fast-pitch softball world. She was a four-time NCAA All-American at UCLA, a 14-time American Softball Association All-American and was named NCAA Player of the Decade for the 1980s.
Richardson's interest in softball came from playing baseball with her brothers as a child.
"My dream was to play major-league baseball," Richardson said. "Back in those days, girls didn't play sports. I remember praying to God and saying "Why did you give me this talent if I can't use it?"
Richardson found her niche when an adult softball team caught a glimpse of her throwing a ball in her hometown of Orlando. The team, whose average age was 22 years, tried to recruit Dot, who was 10-years-old at the time. Thus, began Richardson's decorated softball career. Participants in the clinic were given tips on hitting, fielding and throwing by Richardson and her younger brother, Alonzo, who helps with her clinics. The Sycamore varsity softball team, ranked No. 1 in the city with a 9-0 record, also was on hand to help with drills and equipment.
"The experience Dot can bring to Cincinnati is amazing," Sycamore coach Debbie Klemt said. "She is so energetic that she justs rubs off on the kids. She makes you want to get out and play."
Karin Perszyk, Sycamore's star pitcher who has earned all nine of the team's wins this season, was eager to meet Richardson.
"I was really surprised and honored when I heard she was coming to Sycamore," Perszyk said. "I think it's neat that she was a big part of the gold-winning Olympic team and is a surgeon and still takes the time to hold clinics like this."
Richardson is working on an orthopedic surgeon residency at the University of Southern California.
Richardson understands the importance of the U.S. softball team's success at the 1996 Olympics.
"This gold medal means opportunity," Richardson said.
Bonnie Frye, coach of the 12-and-under Pierce Vipers, has seen the popularity of fast-pitch grow, thanks, in part, to the Olympics. "I have lived in Cincinnati for seven years and have seen the sport start to widen out," said Frye, whose daughter Racquel, 11, was attending the clinic.
Racquel, a pitcher and infielder, was eager to pick up tips from Richardson.
"I want to learn to play shortstop better and work on my batting," Racquel said.
No matter what the age or level of the game is, Richardson stresses the importance of hard work.
"Every day you should be preparing yourself to face the best competition," Richardson said.