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Category: Softball

Fullerton's Michelle Gromacki named assistant coach of USA softball team

Cal State Fullerton softball head coach Michelle Gromacki has been named assistant coach of the 2010 USA women’s national team. She replaces Barb Jordan, who has stepped down for personal reasons.

Gromacki, who is in her 11th season at Fullerton, will help lead the U.S. team to the KFC World Cup of Softball July 22-26 in Oklahoma City. She recently served on the coaching staff at the ISF Women’s World Championship in Caracas, Venezuela, where Team USA won a seventh consecutive and ninth overall World Gold Medal.

Gromacki also served as the assistant coach for the USA Blue Team in 2001 and the U.S. "Elite" National Team in 2002-04. And in 2003, she helped lead the "Elite" team win a Gold Medal at the Canada Cup with an 11-1 record.

Once regarded as one of the best catchers in the nation, Gromacki helped Fullerton to a combined 170-19-1 overall record as a player from 1985 to 1987 while also leading the team to the 1986 NCAA championship. She also played for several U.S. national teams.

-- Debbie Goffa

World Cup: French team comes apart

French team captain Patrice Evra The mutiny is complete. The French World Cup team, in total disarray before the tournament even started, is now refusing to practice. Winless and goalless heading into Tuesday's final group-play game, the French players did not take the field Sunday, a day after striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting lame-duck Coach Raymond Domenech.

And team director Jean-Louis Valentin, for one, has had enough, resigning his post and saying he is fed up.

"It's a scandal for the French, for the young people here. It's a scandal for the federation and the French team," Valentin told the Associated Press. "They don't want to train. It's unacceptable.

"As for me, it's over. I'm leaving the federation. I'm sickened and disgusted," said Valentin, who walked away from the training field, got into a car and drove off.

The latest chaotic scene, according to reporters who were there, comes a day after Anelka was kicked off the team for a profanity-laced tirade against Domenech, whose tactics and management skills have been called into question.

The team arrived at training as usual Sunday and got off the bus to greet fans, but Domenech and France captain Patrice Evra stayed on the bus longer to talk.

When Domenech, who is out of a job after Tuesday's finale, and Evra finally disembarked, fitness coach Robert Duverne was on the field putting down training cones. When Evra and Duverne started to argue, Domenech walked over to intervene. Duverne then stormed off, throwing his accreditation badge to the ground.

Evra then handed a letter to the press officer, and the players, en masse, boarded the team bus and drew the curtains.

France, finalists four years ago, tied Uruguay and lost to Mexico and was scheduled to play South Africa on Tuesday.

-- Kevin Baxter, in Johannesburg, South Africa

Photo: French team captain Patrice Evra speaks to the media in Knysna, South Africa, on Saturday, the day before the team refused to practice. France is set to face South Africa on Tuesday. Credit: Johann Hattingh / EPA

World Cup: Mexico packs 'em in -- in Europe too

According to FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, no team draws bigger crowds at home than Mexico. And El Tri does pretty well in its second homeland, the United States; it averaged more than 60,000 fans on its six-game tour this spring.

But who would have guessed Mexico would draw so well outside it own continent?

Mexico has played before throngs of passionate, flag-waving supporters in the first three matches of its pre-World Cup tour of Europe. Last week in London, enthusiastic fans dressed in Mexican jerseys mixed in with the red- and -white-clad English fans and, two days later, made their presence known in the isolated Black Forest village of Freiburg, Germany. Mexican fans outnumbered -- and out-cheered -- fans of the Dutch national team. And then on Sunday, several thousand more braved sometimes heavy rains to fill the grandstands of tiny Hans-Walter Wild Stadium in Bayreuth, Germany, for Sunday's friendly with Gambia.

Train cars and highways heading to Bayreuth, a quiet town of about 80,000 in a northern Bavarian valley, were packed with fans wearing the black and green jerseys of Mexico, some in sombreros. One woman from Puebla said she was vacationing in the area with her boyfriend when they heard of the game, which was added to the schedule less than two weeks ago, and decided to come.

More than two hours before kickoff, they joined fans, who ignored the weather to chant "Viva Mexico!" and spin noisemakers while breaking into spontaneous choruses of "Cielito Lindo."

Another fan, Juan Elorza, a Mexican-born U.S. soldier, made the two-hour trip by train from his base outside Schweinfurt with half a dozen friends.

"Mexicans follow soccer a lot," said Elorza, who is assigned to an Army artillery unit that rotated out of Iraq in November. "We were born into soccer."

Nevertheless, Sunday's game was the first time Elorza had seen the Mexican national team play.

"I'm following the World Cup," he said with a smile.

Turns out the Mexican national team isn't the only important export that has a following in Germany.

"Did the Lakers win their series?" a German-speaking taxi driver asked when he learned his fare was from Los Angeles. "I had a passenger the other day who is a Celtics fan."

-- Kevin Baxter, reporting from Bayreuth, Mexico

World Cup: Transfer deal for Mexico's Hernandez nears U-turn

Although striker Javier Hernandez is still fighting for a spot in Mexico's World Cup lineup, he had even more reasons to play well in Wednesday night's friendly with the Netherlands in Freiburg, Germany.

Millions of reasons, in fact.

Turns out Hernandez's much-ballyhooed $10-million transfer deal with England's Manchester United is being held up while Man U tries to convince the British Football Assn. that Hernandez merits a work permit as an "elite player."

The FA must grant a "certificate of sponsorship" endorsing Hernandez's permit application, and before doing  that it must be convinced that the 21-year-old is so good he merits special recognition. So far the FA appears unswayed, pointing to Hernandez's failure to play in 75% of the Mexican national team's fixtures over the last two years.

The FA really didn't have to work that hard. Hernandez wasn't even a regular for his club team, Chivas of Guadalajara, until last summer and had played just once for the national team before February, when he took a big jump up in status with three goals in Mexico's first two World Cup warmups.

He has fallen on times recently, however. Hernandez played poorly in Mexico's final three games in North America and was a second-half substitute in his first appearance before the FA on Monday in Mexico's 3-1 loss to England at London's Wembley Stadium.

Manchester United has been down this road before, of course. England's premier club team had to call off a $3.2-million transfer deal with Brazilian defender Celio Silva in 1997 when his work-permit application was rejected. And Korean midfielder Ji-Sung Park was allowed to play for Man U in 2005 only after he won an appeal of a similar rejection.

Hernandez is scheduled to join Manchester United following the World Cup.

-- Kevin Baxter reporting from Freiburg, Germany

UCLA softball team advances to Super Regional

Monica Harrison hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning and Samantha Camuso hit a two-run home run earlier in the game for No. 5-seeded UCLA, which defeated Fresno State, 7-2, Sunday to win the NCAA tournament's Los Angeles Regional and advance to a Super Regional next weekend.

UCLA will host Louisiana Lafayette in a best-of-three series. The winner will advance to the College Softball World Series.

Bruins pitcher Aleah Macon struck out 12 and allowed six hits. UCLA (43-11) overcame an early 2-0 deficit on Camuso's second-inning home run.

-- Eric Sondheimer

Jennie Finch embarrasses ESPN anchor Jay Crawford

Finch_300

Evidently Jay Crawford, a co-host of ESPN's "First Take" morning show, decided he'd take on all-world softball pitcher Jennie Finch. She's the tall, blond fireballer who has been a Team USA starter for several years, during which she's windmilled her way past several major leaguers.

Crawford didn't fare too well, as you can see in this video. He fouled off an early swing, whiffed on a bunt attempt and managed one infield grounder. Crawford claimed he would have beaten it out with his Usain Bolt speed. Finch scoffed at the suggestion -- not sure if it was in regard to the Bolt speed or beating it out.

Crawford, who went to Bowling Green, supposedly pitched some minor league ball with an independent club in 2005. And he did take mighty cuts at the plate. In slow-pitch softball terms, it looks as if he could launch a bomb or two. In fast-pitch terms, there's a huge hole in his swing. Or Jennie Finch is really good.

-- Dan Loumena

Photo: Jennie Finch celebrates with son Ace after Team USA won the World Cup of Softball this summer. Credit: Associated Press

Women's boxing better than softball for Olympics?

My love for boxing dissipated years ago, after Mike Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear. But boxing is in the news today, thanks to the International Olympic Committee's executive board, which approved women's boxing for the 2012 London Olympics.

That's right. Women now will be able to box for Olympic gold. Since boxing is already an Olympic sport, no other vote was needed to put women in the ring.

As the Tribune's Philip Hersh points out in his report today from Berlin, where the IOC board met, of the 26 sports in the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, boxing was the lone sport that excluded women.

Well, thank goodness the IOC rectified that, though I can't figure out how women's boxing is more of a global sport than softball. Softball gets the heave-ho because it is seen as being less than a global sport. And we get women boxers instead? Thirty-six women in three weight classes.

The London Daily Mail (remember, London is the host city in 2012) offers this quick primer on women's boxing.

              tale-of-the-tape.jpg

Yes, I know. Women boxers have to have the footwork, speed, dexterity and power to do well in the sport. Good hand-eye coordination. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like softball.
 
I wish the IOC had instead opted for women's baseball. Now, that would be gender equity. 
 
-- Debbie Goffa

Mississippi State's Jay Miller to head USA Softball

Jay Miller Mississippi State Coach Jay Miller was chosen Monday as head coach of the U.S. softball program, beating out a field of 13 other candidates which included Suzy Brazney of Golden West College and Cal State Northridge Coach Barbara Jordan.

Miller has spent most of the past 15 years with the national softball program, leading the American junior team to a world championship in 2007. With Team USA he replaces Mike Candrea, who won Olympic gold and silver medals, two Pan Am titles and two World Cups in six years.

The rest of the U.S. national team staff will be chosen from the remaining 13 coaches in the national team pool. Those selections will be announced later. On the schedule for rebuilding Team USA this summer is July's Canada Cup, a likely rematch with Olympic champion Japan in the Japan Cup and August's Pan Am Games qualifier in Guadalajara.

Softball, along with baseball, has been dropped from the Olympic schedule for the 2012 London Games but the International Olympic Committee is scheduled to debate both sports' return to the Games at the IOC meetings this fall.

"Our sport is really at a huge crossroads after the dismissal from the 2012 Olympic Games," Miller said. "Things are uncertain and it is an important summer for softball worldwide and [for] the U.S. to get the backing from the IOC and [to] get the votes to get back on the Olympic program."

-- Kevin Baxter

Photo: Jay Miller. Credit: Courtesy of mstathletics.com

Northridge, Golden West coaches named to national softball panel

The U.S. women's softball team leaves the field after an Aug. 21, 2008 loss to Japan in the gold medal round of the Beijing Games competition.

Cal State Northridge's Barbara Jordan and Suzy Brazney of Huntington Beach's Golden West College are among 14 softball coaches named to Team USA's women's national team coaching pool. Coaches selected for the 2009-12 quadrennium are responsible for the training and preparation of the women's national team.

The team's head coach, who will replace Arizona's Mike Candrea, will be named later.

Jordan, who won a national championship and earned All-American honors during a record-setting playing career at CSUN, has guided the school to three NCAA tournaments during her eight years as a coach there. An eight-time national team member and an alternate on the Olympic-champion team in Atlanta in 1996, Jordan has served as an assistant coach with the national junior team.

Brazney, a two-time candidate for the U.S. Olympic team and two-time All-American at Cal Poly Pomona, was a member of the selection committee that picked the 2004 gold medal-winning team and was part of Team USA's coaching pool for the last Olympics, in which the U.S. finished second.

Softball is not on the schedule for the 2012 Olympics in London but there is a growing movement to have the sport returned to the Games by 2016. The International Olympic Committee is expected to vote on reinstatement later this year.

-- Kevin Baxter

Photo: The U.S. women's softball team leaves the field after a loss to Japan in the gold medal round of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Crystl Bustos named USA Softball Player of the Year

USA players surround homeplate while waiting to celebrate with Crystl Bustos, who hit a three-run home run during an Aug. 20 game against Japan during the Beijing Games.

Three-time Olympian Crystl Bustos of Canyon Country was named USA Softball Player of the Year by the Amateur Softball Assn. on Thursday.

Bustos, who attended Canyon High, retired from international softball following Team USA's loss to Japan in the final of the Beijing Games in August -- but not before going 11 for 22 with six home runs and 10 RBI in the tournament.

While in Beijing, Bustos broke the existing Olympic records for homers (five) and slugging percentage (1.318). She also scored 12 runs, which tied the RBI record she set during the 2004 Athens Games.

-- Kevin Baxter

Photo: USA players surround home plate while waiting to celebrate with Crystl Bustos, who hit a three-run home run during an Aug. 20 game against Japan during the Beijing Games. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire

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