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Now settled in Kansas City, softball ace Monica Abbott hopes to inspire future Olympians

Monica Abbott softball Team USA white
Posted at 6:30 PM, Apr 29, 2024

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — Monica Abbott is considered one of the greatest softball pitchers ever and makes no bones about the fact that the Olympics is the pinnacle of her sport.

“If you're a female athlete — and I think this goes pretty much across the board, no matter what sport you play, but especially in the sport of softball — the highest level that you can compete at in the sport of softball is the Olympic Games,” she said. “It's not college; it's not the Women's College World Series. It's not the Pro League. It's not Athletes Unlimited. It is the Olympics. It's wearing ‘USA’ across your chest.”

When she made her Olympic debut with USA Softball at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Abbott — a hard-throwing left-hander — was the team’s baby.

“I was the youngest player on the team — also the tallest — but I had an incredible experience,” said Abbott, who now lives in Lee’s Summit with her husband, Jeff, and their puppy, Chief. “I pitched really well, and it was really incredible because I had a lot of veterans on the team.”

Monica Abbott softball Team USA
Monica Abbott is one of the greatest softball pitchers ever and makes no bones about the fact that the Olympics is the pinnacle of her sport.

Abbott, who was 23 at the time, won a silver medal with the U.S. team playing alongside softball icons like Lisa Fernandez, Jennie Finch and Crystal Bustos.

After nearly reaching softball’s summit, Abbott hoped to walk a path paved with gold four years later, but a funny thing happened on the way to the London Games.

Major League Baseball reached an impasse, refusing to pause its season to let the world’s best player take part in the Olympics, which opted to drop baseball — and softball — from its rotation of permanent sports.

“For me, it was a little bit devastating,” Abbott said. “Being the youngest player in 2008, the prime of my career in ’12 and ’16, I could have really shown the world what I had.”

Abbott — a native of Salinas, California, who became a star southpaw at Tennessee in college — enjoyed one the greatest college careers ever and still owns NCAA records for wins (189), strikeouts (2,440), shutouts (112) and innings pitched (1,448.0).

Monica Abbott
Tennessee's Monica Abbott looks in for the sign in the third inning of Game 1 of the NCAA women's softball College World Series finals against Arizona Monday June 4, 2007, in Oklahoma City.

She tossed the first perfect game in Olympic history — a five-inning rout of the Netherlands in 2008 — but it seemed as if that lone silver medal would have to do after softball was dropped before the 2012 Olympics and didn’t return for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

After years going back and forth, softball eventually rejoined the Olympic slate of sports for the 2020 Tokyo Games, which were delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I actually used to joke that the Olympics are like a bad boyfriend,” Abbott said. “They keep breaking up with me and then want to come back and get together.”

By the time Abbott returned to the Olympics in August 2021, she was now the oldest player on the U.S. team, which again won the silver medal.

Abbott, who played for the Toyota Red Terriers in the world-renowned Japan Diamond Softball League from 2009-22, may have preferred gold, but she was grateful for closure to her Olympic career of any kind.

Monica Abbott Team USA portrait
Monica Abbott is one of the greatest softball pitchers ever and makes no bones about the fact that the Olympics is the pinnacle of her sport.

“We were so grateful again for the opportunity to still be able to wear ‘USA,’ still be able to have an Olympic Games and do our best to be able to compete at the highest level possible,” Abbott said.

Abbott — who also has three world championships, five National Pro Fastpitch titles and six championships in the Japanese league — has retired from playing and settled in the Kansas City area, where her husband was born and raised.

She’s disappointed that softball won’t be in the 2024 Paris Games, but is eager for its return at the 2028 Los Angeles Games — and hopes to work with future Olympic hopefuls, helping girls from her new adopted hometown achieve a dream she’s shared and lived.

To benefit the MA14 Scholarship Fund, Abbott is hosting the Monica Abbott Scholarship Golf Tournament on Monday, May 6, at Lakewood Oaks Country Club in Lee's Summit. Tee time is 12:30 p.m. and the scholarships, which have been given since 2013, benefit two multi-sport female athletes.

Abbott also offers pitching lessons and recently announced the MA14 Speed Retreat — an elite pitching camp that aims to unlock the speed, spin and movement potential for young softball pitchers — in early August in Kansas City.