CLEARWATER - By now, two-time USA fastpitch softball Olympic gold medalist Michele Smith of Treasure Island is back in Japan, where she has accumulated numerous awards and three Japan Cup gold medals while playing in the Japanese Professional League. It was only two weeks ago that the lady who pitched her way to gold in both the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games could be found at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex in Clearwater, instructing young players 5th through 12th grade in the art of fastpitch softball at the Michele Smith and Cat Osterman Holiday Camp. Osterman, a gold medalist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, is a former student of Smith. This past summer the former University of Texas standout pitched back-to-back wins at the World Cup in Oklahoma City and the World Championships in Beijing, China.
Over 120 youngsters from 23 states and Aruba came to Clearwater to learn from Smith, Osterman and other professional coaches such as Debbie Schneider (Smith's former catcher in the Japan Pro League), Linda Derk (who was named "Coach of the Year" by the Women's Professional Softball League in 1999 after leading the Tampa Bay Firestix to a record 37 victories) and Lucy Casarez (who also plays in the Japanese Pro League).
Smith, who was born in Califon, New Jersey, in 1967, was inducted into the Softball Hall of Fame in the summer of 2006. The former Oklahoma State University softball great was recently named "Worldwide Ambassador of Softball". While in college, she led the nation in homeruns in 1988 and 1989 and was selected State of Oklahoma College Athlete of the Year by USA Today in '89. She covered the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City last July as a commentator for ESPN.
In addition to her two Olympic gold medals, Smith has amassed a collection of gold medals through her participation with Team USA at the ISF World Championships, U.S. Cup, Canada Cup, South Pacific Classic and Pan American Games over the years. In Japan, she has been honored as "Top Pitcher" 11 times, "Top Hitter" four times and MVP six times.
When not playing ball or traveling to promote the sport, Smith enjoys boating, fishing and cycling. Smith says because of her schedule, the only movies she gets to see these days are the movies shown on airplanes. Her favorite book is "It's Not About The Bike" by Lance Armstrong. Armstrong, Jackie Joyner Kersee and Derek Jeter are among her favorite athletes. She named Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan as role models.
Where does Smith go for a vacation? "Home", she says.
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