(L-R) Christa Williams and Crystal Bustos up to bat for Team USA.
Crystl Bustos and Christa Williams Yates, both two-time Olympic champions, were among eight honorees inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame on Saturday in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Bustos, who won Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004 before taking home a silver medal in 2008, was one of Team USA’s most dominant hitters during a national team career that lasted from 1999 to 2008.
The Canyon Country, California, native retired with Olympic softball records for most RBIs (10) and home runs (5). In addition to her Olympic success, Bustos helped lead Team USA to three wins at the Pan American Championship, as well as a 2006 world championship.
Bustos found a home in softball following a troubled childhood in Southern California, where she was suspended from school for fighting and needed an extra session of summer school to graduate high school. Without prospects at the blue blood NCAA programs that produce most national team players, Bustos headed to Palm Beach Community College in Florida.
“What’s really sad is, and this is how badly educated I was at the time, I didn’t even know where Florida was,” she told the New York Times in 2008.
Finding an opportunity, Bustos ran with it and soon after became one of the most beloved and recognizable players for Team USA, with her long, braided ponytail and unmatched slugging ability.
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Bustos, a designated hitter and third baseman, had already been inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the dominant 2004 U.S. Olympic Team that won a gold medal in Athens, Greece.
Williams Yates (nee Williams), a pitcher who played with Bustos on the winning 2000 Olympic team, was also the youngest player on Team USA when the sport made its Olympic debut in 1996. As an 18-year-old in Atlanta, she went 2-0 while allowing no earned runs and striking out 15 batters. Four years later in Sydney, she again went 2-0 in another gold-medal effort.
A Houston native, Williams Yates also won world titles with Team USA in 1995 and 1998.
Following her Olympic debut, Williams Yates played one year for UCLA before transferring to Texas, helping the Longhorns reach the 1998 College World Series in just their second year of existence.
Softball was contested in four Olympic Games from 1996 to 2008, when Japan upset Bustos and the favored U.S. team in the gold-medal game. After a 12-year break, the sport will return to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
In addition to Bustos and Williams Yates, the other inductees were Dick Brubaker (Fast Pitch Player), John Daniels (Sponsor), Ricky Huggins (Slow Pitch Player), Todd Joerling (Slow Pitch Player), Bill Silves (Umpire) and Charles Wright (Slow Pitch Player).
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.