Jan. 30, 2012
BERKELEY - During the 2011 Golden Bears' historic run into the postseason, one name kept coming into the discussion - both as an ardent and vocal supporter of Cal softball but also as a standard by which other Bears are measured - and that was Kristina Thorson.
The 2006 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year - the first in Cal history - Thorson was also an Easton first-team All-American by Easton and an NFCA second-team All-American after setting the Cal single-season record for wins (36) and saves (five) that season. Thorson's name and distinguished accomplishments came into play once Jolene Henderson became Cal's second-ever Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year and broke Thorson's single-season wins record. By participating in CalBears.com' in-game live chats and tweeting about her Bears, Thorson was one of Cal's biggest fans this past June.
In 2007, Thorson was the National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) Rookie of the Year for she set the single-season record with 14 wins for the Philadelphia Force. She helped guide the Chicago Bandits to the 2008 regular-season and championship NPF titles. Playing in Italy during her off time, Thorson was also a member of the 2009 and 20110 regular-season championship Bandits team.
Thorson took time away from her busy schedule to answer some questions asked by CalBears.com as well as fans on Twitter and Facebook.
CalBears.com: You're originally from Washington state. What made you choose Cal?
Kristina Thorson: Right before my trip to Cal, I didn't know where I wanted to go to college. I'd visited a few schools, and still hadn't found the right one. I hadn't even been on campus or met Coach Ninemire by the time I had made my decision. As soon as pitching coach John Reeves took me down Telegraph Avenue on a quick tour before meeting up with Coach Ninemire, I felt at home and knew that Cal was the place for me. Meeting Coach, going on campus, and learning about the awesome biology and public health departments just sealed the deal that much more. I loved it so much I gave up full-ride offers to go there.
CalBears.com: John from Sacramento wants to know - When and why did you start wearing the war paint?
KT: It was between games in a Georgia tournament my sophomore year. It didn't start out as "war paint." It was actually navy and silver to match our uniforms for that day. I was honestly just really bored in the hotel room, so I did my make-up. But I threw extremely well that night, so I had to keep doing it. It just evolved from there.
CalBears.com: Trevor - a Facebook fan - wonders how hard it was to pitch through your final season with severe injuries?
KT: It's part of the job having to play through pain and fatigue. I had my most serious injury my senior year, but I'd played through shin splints for years before that, thoracic outlet syndrome in my throwing arm, and probably a whole bunch of stuff that I can't remember. My wrist injury was just something I had to deal with and go on a day-to-day basis. Most days, I could go a whole game no problem. But I had to cut myself off on the not-so-good days. Plus, on the grand scale of things, I've been pretty lucky with my injuries being relatively minor. They really have never been all that severe.
CalBears.com: John from Sacramento characterized you as having a cold stare, violent delivery, and complete and utter domination. Would you agree with that? Were you always like that?
KT: I suppose I would agree with that statement. I mean, I don't know if I would characterize my delivery as violent, even though I put every ounce of energy I have into each pitch. I still like to think of my motion as being smooth. I do, however have a cold stare, and have always had that coldness about me in the circle. When I was 14 and playing travel ball, there was an umpire who went up to my coach (and family friend), Tom, and said, "That cute little girl who was pitching is such a stone cold killer on the mound!" Tom still, to this day, calls me Stoney because of that.
CalBears.com: Laura from Elk Grove asked on Twitter - What are the biggest mental and physical adjustments you made in your game going from college to the professional ranks?
KT: It's a lot like going from high school to college. All the hitters in college, especially Pac-10, would be three, four or five hitters in summer ball. And it's the same adjustment going from college to pro. The only difference is that now the already concentrated pools of talent in college are concentrated even more. The pitchers in this league truly do face the best of the best in the world every day. Any mistake from me will, and usually does, end up over the fence. So, you just have to learn to not make mistakes, and when you do either hope the pitch is out of the zone or they don't swing.
CalBears.com: Tim asked on Facebook - How many people still call you "Goth Girl?"
KT: No one calls me that as a nickname, but it still gets referred to every so often in the locker room. That was always more of a newspaper name that anything. Everyone just calls me Thor.
CalBears.com: Tim also noted that UCLA's Donna Kerr has some of your mannerisms and techniques and wondered if you had anything to do with that.
KT: Well I would have to say no, at least directly. I've never met her, and honestly I don't get to follow college softball as much as I like to so I couldn't even tell you what her mannerisms are like. Whether or not she used to watch me pitch and tried to take after me, I have no idea.
CalBears.com: What have you been doing since graduation?
KT: During my off season, I have been doing pitching lessons for girls aged 9-18 at Double Diamond Sports Academy in Livermore and Mike Murphy Baseball in Concord. I'm obviously still playing professional ball here in the States, but have also played ball over in Europe. I played in Italy twice and once in Austria. Playing in Europe is absolutely amazing. I really hope I get another opportunity to play over there before I retire. I also coached the softball team at California High School in 2010, which was amazing and very trying at the same time. I would have loved to do it again this year, but it just wasn't feasible for me. I am currently starting to search for assistant college coaching positions, which would allow me to continue with softball and go back to school for my masters at the same time.
CalBears.com: Did Cal influence your career path? If so, how?
KT: I was actually one of the rare kids who goes into college knowing what they wanted to study. Going into Cal, I wanted to study public health, specifically epidemiology. However, my education at Cal slightly shifted my focus from epidemiology to infectious diseases, and also opened the door of exercise physiology and exercise science to me. I am looking to get a masters in either of those fields now, if I can't eventually do both.
CalBears.com: What was your favorite Cal moment?
KT: Wow...this one is hard! There are so many on and off the field. But I feel like picking one experience as my favorite doesn't justify the complete experience I had at Cal. I'd have to say the top moments would be graduating from Cal, playing in the WCWS Championship game in 2003 and '04, and my senior day at Cal when I got to pitch in front of my whole family.
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