Press release Major League Baseball
Olympic Gold Medalist and former National Champion with the UCLA Bruins Natasha Watley will make her first appearance as an MLB Youth Softball Ambassador at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton on Saturday, February 9th. On this day, the Southern California native will join MLB in recognizing ‘National Girls & Women in Sports Day’, a national observance celebrating the extraordinary achievements of women and girls in sports, by hosting a pair of unique events designed for young women interested in playing baseball or softball. The ‘National Girls & Women in Sports Day,’ which was founded by the Women in Sports Foundation, is officially observed Wednesday, February 6th.
As part of this observation, MLB will host its signature, youth-oriented ‘PLAY BALL’ event in the morning, followed by a rigorous, two-hour baseball and softball clinic led by Watley, current member of USA Softball Women’s National Team Sahvanna Jaquish and former member of USA Baseball Women’s National Team Tamara Holmes. Both events, which are free for participants, are part of MLB’s efforts to encourage and support young women interested in playing diamond sports. MLB also celebrated last week with a similar event held at the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy on Saturday, February 2nd, where Softball Legend Jennie Finch led nearly 300 young female athletes.
Watley, an integral member of the Gold Medal-winning Team USA during the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the first African-American player to appear for Team USA Softball in the Olympics, is a former infielder for the UCLA Bruins. She is a member of the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame In her new role, she will support MLB’s Baseball & Softball Development group with initiatives and strategies that are designed to grow softball at the amateur and youth levels. Watley’s appointment is the latest in a string of efforts by MLB to increase softball participation, which was catalyzed by its partnership with USA Softball in 2016. Since then, the two organizations have developed the Softball Breakthrough Series and the Softball Elite Development Invitational, and have operated clinics at MLB Youth Academies throughout the year. Watley will join Finch, who was also named an MLB Youth Softball Ambassador in 2017 and has since expanded her role to be the Youth Programs Ambassador.
The MLB Youth Academy in Compton, which offers free, year-round baseball and softball instruction as well as educational programming, including SAT/ACT classes and homework assistance, is part of a larger network including Academies in Cincinnati, Dallas, Gurabo (Puerto Rico), Houston, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Additional Academies are in development in Chicago, the Bronx and San Francisco.