Catcher gets tryout for U.S. Team

Matt Perkins

What would you give to shoot hoops with Michael Jordan, play 18 with Tiger Woods, take batting practice with Alex Rodriguez or run patterns for Joe Montana?

What would you give to just be in the same room as one of the greats to ever play the sport of your choice?

If you said “anything,” you’re just like Minnesota softball junior catcher Megan Higginbotham.

On Thursday, Higginbotham was invited to participate in the 2005 Women’s National Team Selection Camp, Monday-June 17, at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

She has the possibility of making a 16-member elite team or the 18-member national team; either way it would move her one step closer to catching softball legend Lisa Fernandez and putting Minnesota softball on the map.

“(Fernandez) is the face of softball,” Higginbotham said. “There’s nothing else to say, it would be amazing.”

Fernandez, a former National Team member, is one of the most recognizable names in women’s sports, next to current National Team pitcher Jennie Finch, who was named ESPN’s hottest female athlete in 2003.

The selection camp will provide proving grounds for college softball’s elite players, which is exactly why Higginbotham was invited.

“We have known about her for some time, kind of had her on our radar screen,” said Ronnie Isham, USA Softball National Teams Director. “We’ve been watching her progression for a couple of years because the catching position is one of those that stand out. And when we see a player with her talent it stands out even more.”

Making her way across the radar screen and performing under the spotlight, Higginbotham said she never realized her youthful playing days would lead to this.

For some, getting caught up in the limelight so early in a career could change everything from attitudes to style of play. But Higginbotham understands that, age set aside, not many people qualify for this level.

“As a ballplayer, I try to stay pretty even keel,” Higginbotham said. “I don’t see this going to my head at all. I’m just really excited.”

Even keel is exactly where Higginbotham has been her whole career with the Gophers, co-coach Lisa Bernstein said.

“Confidence is something that is internal,” Bernstein said. “She plays with confidence, and if she works hard, good things will happen. And if she makes the team, it will only keep that fire going inside.”

Bernstein said she and Higgenbotham understand that whether she makes the team won’t affect Higginbotham’s attitude down the road. But in the short term, it could do great things for Minnesota’s softball program.

“This is a great thing for Megan and a great thing for our softball program,” Bernstein said. “She has all the tools and makeup to do a great job out there, and she is going to make us proud.”