Wow! February is already upon us! Where did January go??? First I would like to say, welcome to our new blog! I am so excited!! If you haven’t GO READ OUR FIRST POST! Anyways….
Growing up, I [Jas] was always one of maybe one or two brown children on most of my competitive sports teams (with the exception of basketball). Playing volleyball and softball, I always felt different from my other teammates; not in the way that my teammates treated me differently, but there were subtle differences. I was the token black girl. They had long straight ponytails & I had braids, they got sunburnt in one game, I got sunburnt in one tournament (yes, black people get sunburnt), they looked up to Jennie, Cat & Monica (softball) or Misti May & Kerri Walsh (volleyball), and I looked up to…..my mom & dad??
For most of my life, I didn’t have a softball “role model”. I am not even sure that most of the black kids I went to school with knew what softball was (it’s not just girls or old people playing baseball).I never thought that growing up I could actually be a professional athlete, unless I played basketball and WNBA salaries are comparable a to teacher’s. Times are different than say 15 years ago, but I am not sure that every kid truly knows the opportunities available to them and we want to educate them.
Soooo…in in honor of Black History Month, throughout February, we will be talk about some heroes of color and their impact on sports. (Subscribe to our newsletter here, if you would like these delivered to straight to your inbox to share with you kids!)
Today’s hero? Natasha Renee Watley!
Don’t know what that is? Allow me to introduce you!
Natasha Renee Watley, born November 21, 1981 in Irvine, California. A 2x American Olympic Medalist, three-time World Champion, and four-time World Cup Champion, UCLA HOF member, Natasha Watley is the greatest softball player I’ve ever seen play. (Okay, that part may be biased, but continue reading.) I mean check out these accolades:
- 2002 World Champion, Team USA
- 4x All-American, UCLA
- 2003 Honda Broderick Cup winner
- 2003 NCAA National Champion, UCLA
- 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist, Team USA
- 2006 World Champion, Team USA
- 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist, Team USA
- 2010 World Champion, Team USA
- 2010 NPF Champion, USSSA Pride
- 2010 Japan Softball League Champion, Team Toyota
- 2011 Japan Softball League Champion, Team Toyota
- 2012 Japan Softball League Champion, Team Toyota
- 2013 NPF Champion, USSSA Pride
- 2014 NPF Champion, USSSA Pride
- 2014 UCLA Athletics Hall Of Fame Inductee
- 2014 Japan Softball League Champion, Team Toyota
- 2016 Japan Softball League Champion, Team Toyota
Natasha Watley showed me that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what color your skin is, you can excel is in professional softball. She reminds me so much of what I worked to be. Speedy, skilled, self-motivated and an all around good samaritan. Stealing more than twenty bases and batting over .445 average for her last three years of high school, Watley earned Louisville Slugger All-American both her junior and senior years. She went on to continue her career as a student-athlete of UCLA. There she earned First Team All-American, All Pac-10, WCWS All-Tournament, and UCLA HOF honors; she is also known for breaking several school records including an impressive 32 stolen bases, .450 average, and TWO 100+ hits seasons!
Post UCLA, Watley went on to play on Team USA Red helping them win the US Cup and place third at the Canada Cup. She was named “Most Inspirational Player” at the Canada Cup in addition to being named to the All-Tournament Team. Watley played her first season professionally with the New York/New Jersey Juggernaut in the NFP in 2005, and was named an NPF All-Star. In 2014, she became the first player in league history to amass 300 career hits and in 2015 marked her sixth straight season with at least 50 hits to be named All-NPF. She also was the first black person to play on the US softball team. Somehow, balancing work and school, she earned a Master’s Degree in Sports Business from Saint Leo University. She earned many more accolades, records & honors during her career (trust me I could go on)!
Sadly, all professional sports careers must come to an end. Natasha Watley spent the 2016 season overseas and retired in 2017 as one of the greatest players to ever “rub some dirt on it”. Now you can find Watley passing on her expertise in softball to the next generation of little Jas’ through public speaking, coaching and her foundation (learn more here).
XOXO Coach Jas