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Local Olympic gold medalist to stage kids' softball camp

By DAVE SCHEIBER, Times Staff Writer
Published June 15, 2006

Softball great Michele Smith is showing no signs of slowing down. The two-time Olympic gold medalist from Treasure Island just threw the 12th no-hitter of a legendary pro career in Japan that began in 1993 and has her team, Toyota Shokki, tied for first place as the league goes on its midseason break.

But there's no break for Smith.

She's heading back to town to stage her first USA Gold Camp in the Tampa Bay area for softball players from grades 5 through 12. It will be held Monday through June22 at Clearwater's Eddie C. Moore Complex (see michelesmith.com or call (727) 363-1615 for details). And next month, she'll be in Oklahoma City to serve as ESPN commentator for softball's World Cup and to become the first Olympian elected into the sport's Hall of Fame. We recently caught up with Smith, 38, by phone in Japan in a rare slow moment.

So, is it still a thrill to be throwing no-hitters?

It sure is. Because everything has to be right. You have to have a good umpire. You have to call the perfect game. You have to throw the great pitches and when you do make mistakes, you have to be lucky enough on that day that they don't take advantage of them. This one (May 28), we went into the seventh 0-0 against Todachu and the tie-breaker started in the eighth. Fortunately, we scored three runs in the top of the eighth and I got the no-hitter. I keep thinking about Nolan Ryan. He threw a no-hitter when he was 42, so that's pretty darn impressive."

How do you feel about heading to the Hall?

It's very cool. The ceremony was supposed to be in November, but I can't make it because that's when our (Japan) championships are. So they're doing a ceremony for me on July 15 in Oklahoma City, where I'll be for the Cup for ESPN. I was really surprised. It's a great honor. In November, it will be Dot Richardson, Sheila Cornell Douty and Michelle Granger from the '96 team.

Talk about your camp and your work to keep young girls excited about the sport despite its exclusion from the 2012 Olympics in London.

We really wanted to do something in the Clearwater-Tampa-St. Petersburg area and we've gotten great support. It's a long-term commitment and we have kids flying in from around the country. We're trying to make it a family vacation/softball camp so the girls can get instruction during the day while their families go to the beach. As for softball, there's still a very good chance that we'll be in the 2016 Olympics. So we need to keep the grass-roots generation, the young kids, excited about the sport and staying in the sport, and keeping it growing.

For me, it's about trying to give back. It's good for young girls and young women to see that there can be careers for women in sports fields. We might not be the pro athletes making millions of dollars every year. But it's not about the money, it's about your sport and your passion for what you do.

[Last modified June 15, 2006, 01:30:12]


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