National Team Grabs Cream of the Crop

Team USA Lands Softball's Rising Stars; Pros Left With Vets

By TSC Analyst/Contributor DANIEL URBAN

OKLAHOMA CITY  The Team USA 2011 roster was announced ten days ago. Team USA no longer has the services of the elite fastpitch players from the 2008 Olympic team, who earlier this year made a pact to play exclusively for and develop the NPF, but Team USA still has a stable of unbelievably talented players.

Team USA's roster is a who's who of top-tier college players from the past few years. Here is the list:

Valerie Arioto (California)
Whitney Canion (Baylor)
Kaitlin Cochran (Arizona State)
Lauren Gibson (Tennessee)
Kelly Grieve (Tennessee)
Taylor Hoagland (Texas)
Ashley Holcombe (Alabama)
Molly Johnson (Kentucky)
Stacy Johnson (South Carolina)
Megan Langenfeld (UCLA)
Jenae Leles (Arizona)
Michelle Moultrie (Florida)
Christine Orgeron (Louisiana Lafayette)
Keilani Ricketts (Oklahoma)
Britney Schutte (Florida)
Jordan Taylor (Michigan)
Rhea Taylor (Missouri)
Chelsea Thomas (Missouri)

Abbott and Osterman may be gone, but Team USA's pitching staff is still going to be incredible. The pitching staff will be made up of 2010 WCWS MVP Megan Langenfeld from UCLA, Baylor star Whitney Canion, 2011 Michigan ace Jordan Taylor, Missouri standout Chelsea Thomas, and Oklahoma fire baller Keilani Ricketts.

The most interesting part of this list is that Team USA has poached away all the best pitchers from the NCAA from 2011 and 2010. Team USA has all of the best pitchers from 2011 (except for Dallas Escobedo) and Megan Langenfeld—the best NCAA player from 2010.

Langenfeld is easily the best overall college player in recent memory—she was the best pitcher and the best hitter on a WCWS-winning UCLA team in 2010. She would have been a superstar in the NPF but has decided not to join a league where she at least has a chance to make a decent amount of money for her talents.

It also looks like pitcher Jordan Taylor, who was selected in the 3rd round by the USSSA Pride, has declined to play in the NPF and will be with Team USA this year. I cannot figure out why all the best pitchers from 2011 would go to Team USA and not to the NPF.

In fairness, there are only four NPF teams and a lot of the innings are eaten up by the ace pitchers, so there are not a whole lot of opportunities to play. But four teams still make for more opportunities than splitting the innings on a single team.

Team USA has also stolen most of the best hitters. Christi Orgeron was second in the NCAA in home runs this year with 23 for the season, and Britney Schutte, another Team USA player, tied for 3rd in the NCAA with 22.

The NPF did get Megan Bush to agree to play for them, and Bush is probably a better all around hitter with a .333 average and 21 home runs for the Florida Gators this year, but it still feels like Team USA got the better talent.

Team USA also snagged Michelle Moultrie, who was #10 in the nation in batting average in 2010.

Looking at this list versus the list of NPF draftees it looks like, though the NPF has secured the top level players like Abbott and Osterman, Team USA has the rest of the talent from the country. Team USA has even stolen Kaitlin Cochran, a former 1st overall NPF pick, from the NPF.

One other important item to note is that several of the players are junior and underclassmen who cannot play professionally or they will lose their collegiate eligibility. You can play for a national team like Team USA and still be considered an "amateur." But most of the roster is made up of recently graduated players or players a few years past playing in college.

After seeing this list I cannot help but think that the NPF is still getting the short end of the stick. It suddenly feels like all the NPF got are players in the twilight of their careers and Team USA gets all the best young players. Even with so many commitments from the former Olympians, the NPF still doesn't have all of the best fastpitch players.

The players agreeing to play for Team USA are sabotaging their own futures as professional athletes. Team USA players are basically indentured servants: laboring while earning little to no pay and making boatloads of money for the owners.

Granted, it is similar in the NPF right now but there the owners don't make much and the players are paid more. I can't see why anyone would still want to play for Team USA. Team USA won't even be in any big tournaments this year save for a Canadian open and the Pan-American games. Team USA will crush every other team by 20 runs but the players won't be any closer to earning money playing the game they love.

Did these players get the memo that softball is no longer in the Olympics? There is no point in playing for Team USA anymore! The NPF needs 100% of all the best players from the US to have its best chance at succeeding. And if the NPF succeeds the players will have some bargaining power that will push their salaries northward.

It's sad, but if you played Team USA versus all the players from the 2011 NPF draft on one team Team USA would probably win. When will the players learn? Read more.