The Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles, Calif.
May 24, 2001
(Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 2001 all rights reserved)
It is easy to focus on the home runs when you talk about Stacey Nuveman. In one sense, they define who she is and what she may one day become.
The best softball hitter on the planet.
"Just look at her numbers," UCLA Coach Sue Enquist says of her standout catcher.
The figures are staggering. With another year of college eligibility remaining, Nuveman already has 70 homers, 235 runs batted in and is within striking range of setting all-time NCAA records for both.
In her third year at UCLA, the 6-foot blond bomber has put together another All-American season, leading the Bruins into the Women's College World Series at Oklahoma City. UCLA opens play tonight against Iowa (49-12).
Last year, UCLA (59-5) lost to Oklahoma in the title game. But that team didn't have its standout catcher.
Nuveman redshirted so she could participate on the gold medal- winning U.S. Olympic team at the Sydney Games.
Nuveman, 22, was the youngest player on the team, but proved she belonged by hitting a game-winning home run against China that triggered an amazing comeback after three stunning losses.
She now wears a blue-and-gold uniform, but she represents the future of red, white and blue softball.
"If she stays with the game and continues to play at the high level that she is already at, she can be one of the best we've seen," said Oregon State Coach Kirk Walker, a former UCLA assistant who is actively involved in the Amateur Softball Assn.
"I think she has far more to gain. She's not anywhere near reaching her vast potential."
U.S. Olympian Lisa Fernandez notes that there is a big difference between the collegiate and international levels. But she agrees there is nothing that can keep Nuveman from achieving tremendous heights in the sport.
"Stacey is probably one of the top four strongest players in the world," said Fernandez, who is a Bruin
assistant. "As far as strength and hitting ability together, only Crystl Bustos comes to mind. She has the ability not just to hit the ball for power but to hit the ball for average.
"When she gets untracked and is focused, she is unstoppable."
Nuveman, who turned 23 in April, also recognizes her new role as a spokesperson for the game.
"As a young player, that's one of the things you learn," she said. "You see how Dot Richardson, how Lisa Fernandez and Michele Smith handle that . . . how they are constantly in the limelight, yet they continue to perform. If and when the time comes where I am in that position and I am the 'spokesperson', I can be able to handle that because I've had the best teachers."
But while Nuveman has that gold medal, she chose not to cash in on endorsements offered to her teammates. Though she is already the most feared college player, Nuveman wants to finish out her term at Westwood.
"There was some money to be made last summer," she said, "but overall the financial reward wouldn't have made up for missing out on two years of college softball. That to me is not worth the money.
"UCLA has done so much for me . . . it's like I owe it to UCLA to give back to them and finish out my four years."
And continue to wear out opposing teams. As a junior this season, she is batting .453 with 19 home runs and 73 RBIs. Two years ago, Nuveman led the NCAA with 31 homers and 91 RBIs.
But it isn't only the numbers that leave admirers in awe, it's the way Nuveman hits the ball.
The latest example came Sunday in UCLA's 11-0 victory over San Diego State. In her second at-bat, Nuveman hit a pitch several feet above the 28-foot scoreboard in left field, tearing a branch from a large tree.
The former Glendora St. Lucy's player often has done the improbable. Nuveman has hit pitches at her feet over the fence. According to Amy Symons, UCLA's softball information director, Nuveman hit a home run while being intentionally walked in a game two years ago.
San Diego State Coach Kathy Van Wyk, who was the nation's top player as a pitcher at Cal State Fullerton in 1982, said despite changes to promote more offense in the past decade, Nuveman would be as dominant in any era.
"I don't think we've seen a woman hit the ball as hard as she does," Van Wyk said. "She is a phenomenal hitter who is incredibly strong. You don't know what to do when you face her."