Instead of contending at the Women's College World Series the past two weeks, Patty Gasso has played with her grandkids and done yard work. She's hopped on more video calls than she can remember.
Nothing wrong with those things, but the Oklahoma softball coach wouldn't have minded saving them for later in the summer, after the WCWS was over. The event didn't take place this year due to the pandemic.
The Transcript spoke with Gasso on a few topics earlier this week:
Norman Transcript: Take us into the locker room at your first WCWS? How far has the facility come?
Patty Gasso: There weren't any. The first one I was ever at I was coaching at Long Beach City College, and I came out to watch. There were just the grassy berms. There were no outside bleachers because they didn’t need them. I would say there were probably about 2,500 people there. And this was back in 1992 or 1993. There were no bleachers in the outfield. A lot of the seats behind home plate were filled. The berm ... kids were rolling down it, playing on it like you would at a park. It’s not like you were sitting at a national championship game. But to me, that was absolutely amazing because I’d never seen a softball stadium, I had been more at softball fields.
NT: No locker rooms? How’d people get changed?
Gasso: What we would do, and it’s different for us, but we would come from Norman and we’d be in our uniforms. But these teams who stayed in hotels would dress in their uniforms and come to the field, they’d do their practice. So you wore your game uniform and warmed up in it and played in it. You didn’t warm up in your BP top and go change. None of that was happening.
NT: How does softball go from no locker rooms at the World Series to where it is today?
Gasso: It was very dominated by West Coast teams. It just wasn’t that popular anywhere else. If I’m being honest without trying to take credit, when Oklahoma won in 2000, it was televised. We are definitely a David vs. Goliath type of battle. It was the first time OU had ever been to the World Series, so it’s unheard of that you’d win it (so that helped). Administrators and fans were so happy that we were there; they were like, ‘Good luck, if you win one game that’s awesome.’ So in 2000 when they won it was on national television and I think a lot of people tune in and watched the national championship game, but it was always Arizona or UCLA or Fresno State. Texas A&M did win it back in the ‘80s, but it wasn’t even televised back then. So it got a lot of attention that it was someone besides a West Coast team. Then (more teams) started (winning) around the country. I think television definitely helped us grow. No doubt about that. Better athletes helped us grow.
NT: The 17-inning game against Florida in 2017, you win that, then go win the title the next night. Where does that WCWS rank for you?
Gasso: That was pretty exciting. It was a back-to-back national championship which is always hard to do. Any team that has done it will tell you it’s difficult to do. It was against a very, very good Florida team. It’s kind of interesting their head coach was my coach at OU. His pitching coach played for me at OU, now she’s my coach at OU. So we all knew each other and our styles very well. We respected each other so much and our programs. So it meant a lot, not that we beat them specifically, but because we were both in it and we both were part of one of the most memorable games that will ever happen in College World Series history. If some other teams match that I sure want to be able to watch it, because it made some great TV and great softball.
I think that got us even more attention. A lot of people were on the edge of their seats. My team is the Dodgers, ever since I was a little, little kid out of California. And one of the glorious moments of it that I found out later is that we pushed the Dodger game off and they kept us on the air. I was like, what? What? We did what? That was one game that probably added thousands of more fans because it got so much response from people who said ‘You got me in trouble because I was late for work.’ People really enjoyed it. It was one phenomenal game to watch and be a part of.
NT: Have you gone back and watched it on TV?
Gasso: To be honest, I don’t do a lot of that. Not until it’s way past it’s time. Because for some reason I get really tense. I know the outcome. But for some reason (laughs) … I just don’t want to feel that.
NT: What will next year’s WCWS be like with so many players coming back and an increased thirst for the event with it not happening this year?
Gasso: It’ll be worth the wait because every team is loaded with players, including the Sooners. Every team is loaded. You’re gonna see some teams that have incredible depth. You’re going to see the best softball you’ll see in your lifetime next season, that’s what I can tell you.