OKLAHOMA CITY –– With less than fourth months until the Tokyo Olympic Games, the world-ranked No. 1 U.S. Women’s National Team will continue preparations in a mid-April training camp set to be held at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex (JRTC) April 12-22 in Vero Beach, Fla. Team USA will take part in a series of workouts and practice sessions in addition to a four-game series against No. 10 Italy and a 10-inning exhibition contest against the University of Central Florida (UCF). The games are a part of the 2021 “Stand Beside Her” tour, presented by Major League Baseball (MLB), and will provide much-needed preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games where the sport of softball returns to the Olympic stage for the first time since 2008.
“It is crucial for our Women’s National Team to continue training together as we approach the Tokyo Olympic Games and we are excited for the opportunity to face high-level opponents from the international and collegiate levels,” said USA Softball Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Craig Cress. “Thank you to Team Italy and UCF as well as Major League Baseball and the Jackie Robinson Training Complex for hosting and making this training possible for our athletes.”
As the Official Training Facility of the USA Softball National Team Program, the JRTC will host the WNT throughout the course of training with a free open-to-the-public practice session scheduled for Friday, April 16 from5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.ET. Fan attendance will be allowed at a limited capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions with all spectators required to wear a face covering while inside the ballpark. The gates will open up to the public at5 p.m.ET with attendance being limited to the first 1,000 fans on a first-come, first-serve basis. During the open practice session, fans will have the opportunity to get an inside look at a Team USA training session while members of the U.S. Olympic Softball Team participate in a live Q&A session throughout the practice. Fans will be able to submit questions and follow along on the USA Softball and JRTC Instagram accounts. To ensure the safety and well-being of the athletes and fans, there will not be an autograph session. All remaining practice sessions, including the four-game series against Team Italy, will be closed to the public.
The Jackie Robinson Training Complex primarily serves as a year-round hub of amateur development initiatives and events designed by MLB, USA Softball and USA Baseball to diversify and strengthen the talent pipelines of baseball and softball. Formerly the Spring Training home of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, and now operated by Major League Baseball, its 80-acre campus is a multi-sport training and tournament destination to athletes of all ages and skill levels, accommodating baseball, softball, lacrosse, football, soccer, rugby, swim and rowing teams.
“Since 2016, USA Softball has been a great partner in our efforts to increase opportunities for young women across the nation,” said David James, Vice President, Baseball & Softball Development, Major League Baseball. “We are happy to continue standing beside the Women’s National Team during their journey to Tokyo. Following their recent stop at the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy, we welcome these world-class athletes - along with Team Italy & the University of Central Florida - to the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.”
Following the postponement of the pre-Olympic “Stand Beside Her” tour, presented by MLB, the Red, White and Blue squad resumed preparations for the highly anticipated Tokyo Olympic Games in January with a series of monthly training camps and exhibition games. Participating in their fourth training camp of the 2021 season, Team USA heads to Vero Beach with a 7-0 record while limiting their opponents to just six runs in their seven contests. For more information on the 2021 “Stand Beside Her” tour, presented by MLB, please visit StandBesideHerTour.com.
“We are very excited for the opportunity to train and compete this month,” said Women’s National Team Head Coach, Ken Eriksen. “As we know, COVID has limited our training capabilities but I want to thank Coach Ball-Malone at UCF for creating an opportunity for their team to compete against Team USA and also to Team Italy for working with our National Team staff as we both continue our preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.”
Held at the JRTC, the Red, White and Blue will kick off the four-game series against Team Italy with a 5 p.m. ET contest on April 15, followed with three additional 5 p.m. contests on April 17, April 19 and April 21. The two countries along with No. 2 Japan, No. 3 Canada, No. 5 Mexico and No. 8 Australia make up the six who will vie for the Gold Medal in Tokyo in July. Fans will not be allowed inside the ballpark for the four-game series due to COVID-19 restrictions, however live stats will be available on USASoftball.com.
"This training camp does not represent only an opportunity to practice but is definitely the most prestigious event we are going to take part in in the last two years,” said Manager of Team Italy, Federico Pizzolini. “Playing our 'opening game' against Team USA on April 15, recognized as Jackie Robinson Day, at the Jackie Robinson Complex is the most exciting experience we may think of in order to fuel the energy of our players. This is a precious opportunity to play with the best and compete for a spot in our Olympic Games roster. Winning is very difficult but repeating is even harder and we want to show up in Tokyo as the confirmed top team of our continent. I want to thank Team USA for this one-of-a-kind opportunity they are giving us."
In addition to the four-game series against Team Italy, the U.S. WNT will square off against UCF on April 20 in a 5 p.m. ET solo contest (10 innings) at the UCF Softball Complex (4055 Home Run Ct. Orlando, Fl. 32816). Fans will be allowed inside the ballpark at a limited capacity with tickets available to purchase online by clicking here. All fans in attendance will be required to wear a face covering while inside the complex. The contest will be streamed through ESPN+ with live stats available on USASoftball.com.
“We are so excited for the opportunity to face the best athletes in the world,” said UCF Head Coach, Cindy Ball-Malone. “This opportunity is something special because it shows where the game is going and what it can provide, and I think it could be a defining moment for some of our young ladies. We’re definitely going to try to be competitive and win, but more so just enjoy the experience and competition of playing the best of the best. We represent our university, but these women are representing our nation. So, I think it's going to be cool to see it from that perspective."
The 18-player roster will be without Rachel Garcia, Dejah Mulipola and Bubba Nickles as well as assistant coaches Laura Berg, Howard Dobson, Tairia Flowers and Heather Tarr who all remain with their respective collegiate teams. Assisting Head Coach Ken Eriksen with coaching will be Kyla Holas and two-time Olympian Kelly Kretschman while Courtney Gano, Haylie Wagner, Jessie Warren, Randi Rupp and Samantha Show will join the team as training players for the month of April.
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