June 3, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY - Wednesday, June 1 started out much like any other day on the road with the California softball team - breakfast at a reasonable hour, loading up the bus with equipment and driving off to a field. But it was no typical day for the Golden Bears were headed to the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium to spend an hour with ESPN and then get some practice in before the opening of the 2011 Women's College World Series the next day.
The student-athletes, clad in their white uniforms with California emblazoned across the front, walked up a slight hill to where ESPN had set up several stations - photo shoot, video interview, talent interview and group video filming - at two of the practice fields.
First up, sophomore Jolene Henderson sat down with the "talent" as they are known in the biz. Immediately recognizable to even the most casual softball fan, Henderson was introduced to Beth Mowins, Jessica Mendoza, Holly Rowe, Michele Smith and Pam Ward - just to name a few - along with the producers and directors for the WCWS. The ESPN entourage interviewed Henderson off camera to get a better understanding of Jolene, the team and the road the Bears took to get to Oklahoma City.
"It was really fun to be able to talk to ESPN and meet all these new people," Henderson said. "It's an incredible experience and I want to take everything I can from it."
While Henderson sat with the talent, the rest of the Bears had their photos taken by a professional photographer for a series of graphics. This year, instead of the usual video introductions, ESPN went with a baseball card style introduction, made up of the photos for which the Bears posed.
"The photographers made it seem routine, but having my picture taken for graphics on ESPN for the World Series is not very routine for me," junior third baseman Amy Bishop said. "This whole experience is so surreal and it's difficult to really articulate how I feel about everything because I still don't believe this is all really happening"
Above the photo shoot sat a stack of boxes in front of a camera and under a sound microphone. Britt Vonk was up first to be interviewed on camera by a producer.
"It was a whole new experience!" Vonk said. "I did not expect it to be that professional, but that made everything more exciting!"
Following Vonk was junior third baseman Jace Williams, who answered questions about Bebe - a little girl with cancer whom the Bears adopted through Friends of Jaclyn - as well as how she got started playing softball, something she attributes to her grandfather.
"I feel so blessed and fortunate to have been given the opportunity to play the World Series," Williams said. "This whole experience is a dream come true and I am just living it up right now and soaking it all in."
While the Bears finished getting their photos taken, Elia and Jamia Reid were also interviewed on camera and by the ESPN talent.
"I will admit that at first, I was a little bit nervous," Elia Reid said. "But as the producer started asking questions, I started to calm my nerves. It was an overall great experience."
The pair - colloquially known as "the twins" - also did a video shoot with the ESPN producers.
"It was a great experience, especially doing the mirror image video with my sister," Jamia Reid said. "It was fun talking to the ESPN talent even though, at first, I was really nervous. But they made it fun. It was all around a great experience and I'm just really happy to be here."
After everyone had their picture taken and the interviews were complete, the entire team assembled on a practice field. It was not an easy trip down the field for some, as LaRisa Jones took a nasty spill coming down the stairs. She regrouped, however, for the ESPN crew successfully filmed them walking - first with mean looks on their faces, and then with smiles. As the Bears walked towards the camera, in the foreground was what is at stake here - the NCAA Championship trophy.
"It was pretty surreal getting my picture taken for ESPN," freshman catcher Taylor Vincent said. "It was exciting to pose with the actual trophy."
Following the conclusion of working with ESPN, the Bears changed into their practice field for an hour closed session on a practice field and then an hour of open practice on the one and only ASA Hall of Fame Stadium dirt and grass.
Wednesday, June 1
Thursday, June 2
Friday, June 3
Saturday, June 4
(all times local)