Photo: USA Softball
Vicky Galindo may be 5-foot-4 but this former all-American from UC Berkeley is still a formidable offensive player for the U.S. National Team. Here she reveals how coaching softball improved her play on the field and just how important the next few months will be in determining whether she goes to Beijing.
As a fellow Berkeley grad myself I’ll start off with a very insightful and important question. It’s Friday night in Berkeley. You’re hungry. Do you go Blondie’s Pizza or Top Dog?
Oh, I love Top Dog. Top Dog all the way. Especially at two in the morning. (Laughs)
What do you think Cal softball has to do to overcome those pesky Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-10? (Arizona just recently won their 8th softball national championship.)
I don’t know. I’m going to have to go back and have a chat with those Cal girls. I guess I’ve got some phone calls to make.
On a serious note, Coach Diana Ninemire has had an astounding 20 straight winning seasons at Cal. What do you think is the secret to her success?
She’s just great overall. She definitely makes sure that the girls are taken care of. Because she works with what she has to work with. I mean, to be honest, we don’t have the best facilities for softball. Which is tough -- because we have such a great program at Cal. But she gets the most out of whatever she has and that’s why she’s successful.
What did you learn from her that you’ve applied here on the national team?
Just hard work and being able to be flexible. To play different positions. And being able to take a leadership role. That’s important to me and that started at Cal.
Speaking of different positions, you’ve bounced around a little bit in the infield playing both second and third on the national team. Is there one position you feel more comfortable at? Or does it not matter?
Before I played third base at Cal I was a middle infielder. I definitely like playing middle infield because you have more range – you can go after balls up the middle. I think playing three years at third in college and then moving from left to right back to second was a challenge at first. But right now I feel really comfortable.
You’re currently working as a softball coach at San Jose State. Do you find coaching helps improve your game on the field?
Absolutely. It’s huge. This is going to sound really silly. But as a coach, when players make mental mistakes and you’re like “Oh my Gosh! What was she thinking?” It makes me remember what it’s like to be a player.
And then I get out here as a player and make a mistake and I think “Coach is probably going to kill me.” It actually slows the game down.
Is coaching something you’d like to pursue after your playing career ends?
I think so. Depending on if I make the Olympic team, I’ll wait to start grad school. Otherwise I’ll start grad school and get a master’s and become a coach.
In the games leading up to the World Cup you’ve hit in different parts of the batting order. Do you take a different approach whether you hit top or bottom of the order?
Oh definitely. I need that. Sometimes I feel like I struggle with the mentality of hitting in different places in the batting order. When you’re hitting number two you’ve got to think “Hit the ball on the ground. Move the runners.” You’ll get different pitches up there than you will at the bottom. So you definitely have to think about it before you get in there and start swinging at pitches.
Any pre-game rituals or superstitions you’d like to share?
Not really. What usually happens is when the tournament starts and I have a good game I try to remember what I did before that game. If I wear my hair straight for five days in a row, then you’ll know it’s because I’m going well.
Besides winning the World Cup here, do you have any personal goals during the tournament?
For me I just want to make sure I don’t make any errors, that I don’t make any mental mistakes. I just want to play perfect ball. Because for me, personally, this is a big summer. We have our Olympic try outs coming up and I just want to make sure I secure my place on the team. Because you never know.
Speaking of the Olympics does the fact that there are no games in 2012 give the games next year some added significance?
It does. Especially for me. Because I started right after the girls got back from Athens in 2004. And every year you think, “Oh my Gosh! I don’t know if I’m going to make the team.” And then you keep making the team. And now it’s that last selection. So I really hope I make the team this year. To be this close and not make it would be…I don’t even want to think about it!
Any advice for those young softball fans -- even those who won’t attend Cal -- on what they can do to become an elite softball player?
It’s just really important to have that passion and that love for the game. That’s what got me to where I am. If you lose that it’s kind of tough. Just keep the passion.