By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
NY/NJ Juggernaut Announce Signing of Olympian Natasha Watley
The New York/New Jersey Juggernaut of National Pro Fastpitch have announced the signing of 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist, Natasha Watley. The Juggernaut, one of the six inaugural teams in the NPF, played their 2004 season on the campus of Montclair State University in Little Falls, NJ, finishing the regular season with a 39-21 record and winning the NPF crown.
Watley helped lead USA Softball’s Dream Team to a 9-0 record at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, as the team outscored its competition 51-1 en route to clinching its third consecutive Olympic gold medal. USA National Team coach, Mike Candrea, who had the pleasure of coaching Watley at the 2004 Olympic Games, is very excited and expects great things from Natasha in the NPF. “If Natasha was a man, she would be making millions of dollars playing her sport, she’s just that good. She has all the tools; the short game, great power at the plate, excellent speed, and I think she’s the best shortstop in the world.
She is going to bring great excitement to the New York metropolitan area. I think her best softball is ahead of her, and that’s a scary thought for all of her opponents.” The former four-time first team All-American shortstop from UCLA, arguably the best leadoff hitter in the game, will bring great depth to the Juggernaut roster. Her collegiate coach, Sue Enquist, is very enthusiastic for Natasha’s rookie year in the professional league.
Enquist congratulated the Juggernaut earlier today and gave her thoughts on the newly acquired Watley. “In my opinion they have acquired one of the most exciting players in the game of fastpitch softball. Natasha can do it all.
She plays solid defense. She is exciting on the base paths. She has a short game and a power game offensively. But most importantly, she is a team player and a great role model.”
Watley’s accolades as a collegiate athlete and a USA National Team member are extremely impressive. In her senior year, the UCLA captain was crowned the Honda Award Winner for Top Collegiate Female Athlete, as well as the PAC-10 Player of the Year award.
Watley’s name is also listed quite frequently in the all-time NCAA record books. In her four year campaign as a starter for the Bruins, she finished top three in career hits (395), top five in career runs (252), top ten in career batting average (.450) and top ten in career stolen bases (158). Watley is also listed seventh on the all-time NCAA record books with 121 hits in a single season (as a junior in 2002). Watley’s impact on the Juggernaut franchise will prove to be monumental as she breaks into her professional career in 2005.
Upon her signing, Watley claimed “I am very excited to continue my softball career with the New York/New Jersey Juggernaut. Coming off such a high at the Olympics, I’m glad that there is an opportunity to expand the sport of softball on a professional level and hopefully make the country more aware of what this sport has to offer. I hope to open the doors to the future generations of fastpitch athletes, providing them with the professional venue that I am fortunate enough to have.”
Julie Smith, 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist, General Manager and Head Coach of the 2005 squad, is very excited to have Watley leading the infield. “We are thrilled to have such a phenomenal athlete and woman added to our roster. What she brings to the team with her Olympic Gold Medal experience, as well as her outstanding collegiate career at UCLA, will only raise the level of play of her teammates. The Juggernaut has begun a tradition of winning championships and Natasha epitomizes the world champion. Most importantly, what attracted me the most about Natasha is her modest demeanor and respect for the game, as well as her uncanny ability to dictate the direction of any given game. When Natasha gets on base, she will score. When a ball is hit in the vicinity of her position, she will get to it and make the out. She is any coach’s dream player and I expect great things from her.” Watley feels this same utmost respect for manager Smith and is anticipating the start of the 2005 season. “Getting the chance to play for Julie Smith is incredible. She is truly a pioneer of the sport, having played on the 1996 Olympic team, and I am extremely excited to hear her insights on the game. I am thrilled to start training alongside her and to bring back another NPF Championship to the Juggernaut organization.”
Watley is currently finishing her last semester at UCLA and will graduate in April with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in African American Studies. Her future goal is a career in sports broadcasting.
The Juggernaut are still in negotiations with various facilities and will announce a home field in the near future. For more information on the NY/NJ franchise of NPF, please call 212-907-6561 or visit the Juggernaut online at www.nynjjuggernaut.com.