Lisa Fernandez is one of the most recognizable names in softball. Her long list of accolades include: three-time Olympic gold medalist, four-time World Championships gold medalist and two-time NCAA women's college World Series champion.
We sat down with Fernandez to get her thoughts on being a mom, the growth of softball and her chances at making a comeback for the 2008 Beijing games.
How is motherhood treating you so far?
It's more than I ever thought it would be—in a positive way. You never realize you can love something so much until you have your own. When Antonio puts his head on my shoulder, I'm not going to move. It's amazing how the smile on his face can light up your day. It's been a great thing.
Is it tough to balance traveling extensively, training and being a mom?
It has been great for him to travel on the road with me and to adjust the way he has. He's been able to experience more things in his short life of a year and a half than most kids do in their whole lives. I have a whole new appreciation for little kids--they really don't know anything until you teach them everything they learn. So that's pretty neat, to be able to teach him things and see him retain it.
Are you enjoying your time off or do you feel like you want to get out there and throw a few when you are watching?
When we're not doing well, I do. When we're doing great, I'm happy where I am. When we win—it's a win whether it's me in the circle or Cat or Finch. It's harder for me when we don't get it done--when we're struggling and I know I can contribute.
Are you planning a comeback for the 2008 Beijing games?
I'm training really hard and planning on going to the training camp in September. We'll see how it goes and hopefully my versatility will be to my advantage. I can pitch, I can play third, the infield and I can hit. So I have that in my favor—not being one dimensional.
Speaking of your hitting, growing up my team and I all had a bat with your name on it. You were such a great role model for us. Who did you look up to?
I can remember Jennifer Azee, a basketball player out of Stanford. She was one of the first ones I remember seeing on television and I remember how physically fit she was and still maintained her femininity. That was a real good sign for me to be strong and still be considered to be not only a good athlete but also a good person. I think that's important because we're not all built the same but we can still be who we are.
What kind of influence did your family have on your athletic career?
My grandmother and my mom were both very big feminists. They're belief in my sister and I being able to take care of ourselves before we settled down enabled us to achieve our dreams. With my dad, you don't find many people who will continue to support their kids the way he has throughout my career. He's had some people say, "Why are you still letting your daughter play ball?" He took my medals and my bat and said, "This is why my daughter still plays ball." I couldn't have done it with out that.
What is your favorite country to play in while on the road?
Japan is a great place to play. They're rabid when it comes to their sports. Not even necessarily their professional sports, but their amateur sports. They eat and breathe it.
Do you have a special place you keep your medals?
I actually don't. I keep my medals in a drawer in my house that is really accessible because I bring them with me when I travel.
You've been such a huge part of USA Softball. How have you seen it grow?
Immensely. Look at how many people were in the stands tonight--the place was packed. I remember being at the Women's College World Series my first year and there were three or four thousand. When I graduated it was seven thousand people. I think that's when the sport started to grow, in the early 1990s with ESPN putting it on television. Ultimately, the big boom happened with the 1996 Olympics and put us into a whole new stratosphere.
In addition to a larger fan base, have you seen the interest in participation increase as well?
Absolutely. Southern California used to dominate the game. Not anymore--now it's Florida, Texas, you name it. There are kids all over the world and all over this country that are playing this game and that just shows how much it has grown.