By Michael Kinney
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – Keilani Ricketts just wanted more time. That’s what the former Oklahoma pitcher said was the obstacle keeping her from playing for the USA Softball Women’s National Team at the World Cup of Softball this week in Oklahoma City.
“It’s really tough,” Ricketts said. “I had planned everything around playing for Team USA this summer. Of course I love playing in Oklahoma City in front of all the Sooner fans. I’m sad I can’t be there with the team.”
The World Cup begins today at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. Team USA opens up against Canada at 7 p.m., but the reigning two-time national Collegiate Player of the Year will not be on the field.
While staff members of USA Softball said Tuesday it was her decision to not play, Ricketts said that’s not the case. According to her, it was Team USA who told her she could not be on the field unless she signed a long-term contract with the organization.
“I was always committed for playing out the entire summer,” Ricketts said. “I had told Ronnie Isham and I had told coach Ken Erickson that I was going to need the summer before I made any long-term decisions. We talked last week and they told me they wanted me to make a decision with the long-term contract before this summer even happens.
“I told them I just didn’t feel comfortable making a decision until after the summer was over. So they took that as a no. It sucks that it looks like I quit the team, but that wasn’t the case.”
Phone calls made by The Norman Transcript to Isham were not returned as of press time.
One of the reasons Ricketts wasn’t ready to make a decision on the long-term contract was because she wanted to see what was going to be the outcome of the vote in September that would decide if softball would be back in the 2020 Olympics.
Ricketts also had another long-term contract offer from the USSSA Pride of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league.
“I was drafted by the NPF Pride and I had received an offer from them for a three-year contract,” Ricketts said. “I hadn’t made a decision. I had gone out just to see what the offer was. I told USA about it and they were OK with it. But I never signed anything, I never committed to anything. I just wanted to wait until after the summer to make any type of decision between NPF and USA.
“They felt it was me not being committed to USA. I was committed to the end of the summer. I told them that.”
According to Ricketts, this was the first time Team USA has ever asked her to sign a contract and she was the only player asked to sign one.
“It was a really good opportunity,” Ricketts said. “It was actually to kind of be the face of ASA (Amateur Softball Association) USA Softball and to kind of be a representative for that. I just wasn’t sure with Olympics not even being a sure thing or not until September.
“So I just wanted to wait until after the summer to be able to make that decision. I kept asking, but they said the contract was non-negotiable and I needed to make a decision before the World Cup.”
Ricketts spent each of the last two summers with the national team, helping the squad win the 2012 World Cup of Softball and also take silver at the 2012 ISF XIII Women’s World Fastpitch Championship and Canadian Open International Championship.
Ricketts earned her third consecutive spot on the team on June 14 when she and Sooner teammates Lauren Chamberlain and Destinee Martinez were selected to the 18-player squad after a three-day selection camp.
Ricketts said she still doesn’t know what her long-term plans are. The NPF offer is still up in the air, but she said she has signed to play professionally in Japan starting in September.
“I am 21 years old,” Ricketts said. “It sucks to be in this kind of situation at such a young age. I just wish I had time to make that kind of decision. I know it’s a business for both organizations. I kept saying I was committed and I wanted to make a decision after the summer, but they wanted a decision before the World Cup. So we were just on different pages.”