Jun. 13—She’s too humble to say it herself, so let me do it.
Jocelyn Alo belongs on the United States Olympic softball team.
There is still more than a month until the games are scheduled to begin in Tokyo, and there are plenty of slots on plenty of U.S. teams still to be determined. But the softball roster is apparently written in indelible ink and Alo is not among the 15 players and three alternates.
It’s hard for me to believe Alo is not one of the 18 best Americans in her sport. She is already universally recognized as one of the greatest sluggers in the history of the game, with a year of college eligibility remaining.
Sure, I’ll admit bias. I’m a homer—for homers, the kind that go over fences in baseball and softball games. I’m especially partial to clutch blasts, like those Alo hit when Oklahoma needed them most Wednesday and Thursday in the Sooners’ victories over Florida State to win the Women’s College World Series.
Like most human beings, I enjoy it when people from where I’m from succeed on national stages. I like it even better when it’s on an international stage, like at the Olympics … and I don’t like it when they don’t get the opportunities they deserve.
“Could you have a better player on your team than Jocelyn Alo ?”
ESPN analyst Jessica Mendoza asked that rhetorically moments after Oklahoma’s win Thursday. Maybe she wasn’t alluding to the Olympic team, but it’s a good question regardless.—It’s not that she doesn’t have international experience ; Alo has competed well against national teams from Mexico, Australia and Japan, and Team USA.
The Campbell and Kahuku alumna from Hauula said she doesn’t feel snubbed or overlooked. She’s still stoked about her team’s national championship and isn’t worried about individual stuff.
“It’s just not my time yet, ” Alo said in a phone interview Saturday from Oklahoma, while the national team was playing an exhibition series in Midland, Texas. “I know I’m that caliber of player, and I do want to represent my country. But they already have a set roster. They kind of look for versatile athletes. People who steal bases, who pitch and hit, athletes like that.”
I think the National College Player of the Year is selling herself short. Alo is versatile enough ; she hits lots of different kinds of bombs … down the line, opposite field, with runners on, solo shots.
She can hit triples, too, like the one off UCLA superstar Rachel Garcia that helped the Sooners knock out the defending national champion Bruins from the WCWS.
The U.S. National Team is comprised of mostly veteran, post-college players. But Garcia is on it, and so is her UCLA teammate Bubba Nickles.
“Rachel is a workhorse, and such a sweet and cool person, ” Alo said. “She deserves all the awards and honors she’s received. She’s worked very hard.”
So has Alo. In a page out of the Kolten Wong playbook, rare talent, passion and discipline from a very young age were nurtured by her father—a thousand swings a day’s worth of dedication.
As any great hitter knows, timing is paramount. And that might be a big part of why Alo is not on the Olympic team.
The roster is essentially the same as when it was put together before the games were postponed due to COVID-19 last year, and Alo was coming off a difficult sophomore season that was her least productive at Oklahoma.
So, if it’s not the Olympics, what is next for Alo ?
“I’m probably coming home soon, ” she said. “Actually, first I’m going to go to Miami to celebrate with some friends, and to Houston in July for my niece’s birthday. Then I don’t know, we’ll see.”
She has spent the past few days relaxing and corresponding with lots of well-wishers. They include a guy who knows something about clutch home runs.
“I’ve actually never met Shane (Victorino ) in person, ” she said. “But on Instagram I told him I would love to talk hitting. We Facetimed and talked for an hour before the season started and we stayed in touch all season.”
There are many others, including athlete friends from the North Shore like football players Breiden Fehoko and Alohi Gilman.
“Obviously family, high school teammates, too, ” she said. “And the Numata family. I used to do catching lessons with Chace (the pro baseball player from Pearl City who died in a 2019 accident ) and Homie (Chace’s dad ) worked with me.
“There’s a whole lot of people to thank, ” she said. “Everyone !”
She said she’ll be back next year for her final season at Oklahoma, where she is majoring in human relations. Alo envisions a future in teaching and coaching.
Maybe it will be her time in a future Olympics. Unfortunately, though, softball is not on the agenda for the 2024 Games in Paris.——Reach Dave Reardon at dreardon @staradvertiser.com.