Dot Richardson had been part of games like this before. Then, she was taking ground balls. This time, though, she took her place in the coach’s box.
Richardson’s Liberty Flames went head-to-head with Team USA on Wednesday night as part of the Stand Beside Her tour. The national team took home the 18-0 victory, running their undefeated streak to eight games to begin the pre-Olympic tour.
Team USA has had higher-profile opponents to begin this tour – they beat two-time national champions Florida 5-3 on Tuesday night in Gainesville – but not yet has this iteration of the national squad directly taken on one of the greatest to ever pick up a softball for the red, white, and blue.
“Dr. Dot”, as the Liberty head coach is known, earned her Doctor of Medicine degree in 1993. She would go on to take a one-year leave of absence from her orthopedic residency program to be part of Team USA for the 1996 Olympic Games. She took part in a tour very similar to what the current US team has embarked on, playing a barnstorming-style circuit as preparation for the summer Games in Atlanta.
One of the best to ever play the game, Richardson’s legacy isn’t complete without her Team USA exploits. During those same 1996 Olympics, it was she that hit the game-winning home run to earn the first-ever Olympic gold medal in softball for herself and the US squad. She was also part of the 2000 Olympic roster, suiting up for Team USA in Sydney.
“The memories that go through my mind are those from when we’ve done the pre-Olympic tour, in 1996 and 2000. So I know what those players are feeling,” Richardson said prior to the game on Wednesday night. “I also know the fans’ excitement to see the United States national team, and in this case, the national team being our Olympic team. Our players are so excited; they’re looking out there saying ‘oh my gosh, oh my gosh,’ and there are stars in their eyes. And I think they’re looking for the opportunity to challenge and to learn from them.”
While the game and the final score seemed to lean one-sided, Richardson used her roster to the fullest during the Wednesday night matchup, drawing on the game’s exhibition status to give as many of her players as possible the opportunity to directly face off against some of the greatest to ever play. At one point during the game, after the coaches had agreed that further lineup changes would not require the usual formalities, Richardson pulled a pinch-runner off of first base, sent a second pinch-runner in her place, and told the initial sub to pick up a bat and get ready to hit from the on-deck circle. While unorthodox, the move illustrated Richardson’s realization of just what it meant to step into the box or to take the circle against Team USA.
As for her own legacy, Richardson viewed that in her usual spirit. “Well, it’s very humbling,” she said about the nostalgia of facing off against the team for whom she formerly starred. “When you think about it, it’s been nineteen and a half years since I put on the USA uniform and the last time that I took it off. It’s great to be a part of the legacy of what USA softball is all about.”
Even as she prepared to face off and try to pull of a victory against the USA squad, Richardson spoke of the national team and their status with the game as a whole: “I know the excitement they’re going to have going to the Olympic Games. It’s indescribable. The elation and the butterflies and just living the dream, and doing it for so many that have been there, and have dreamt of being there, and those in the future that just can’t wait until they’re there.”