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Ex-Medford star Jacobs realizes dream

Photo from Angie Jacobs

Angie Jacobs has seen better pitching and better hitting ­ not tomention a climate more suitable to softball.

Until this spring, however, neither Jacobs nor her peers in the Women'sProfessional Fastpitch league could count themselves as play-for-pay ballplayers.

The status has come at a price: Road trips, long hours on the field,early morning promotional appearances, new rules and ever-present humidity.

It's physically and mentally fatiguing, says Jacobs, 31,a Medford High School graduate who plays for the Georgia Pride. Thereare good days and bad days. You have to learn to get along with people.You play six games a week and your off day really isn't

because it's a travel day. A lot of people would never be able to comprehendit ­ you have to schedule time just to do laundry.

I have to give credit to people who do this yearly.

But don't get Jacobs wrong, this is the summer she's been waiting forall of her life.

Basically, it's a dream come true, Jacobs says. Tobe recognized as a professional in a sport I love playing. It's only abouttime.

The WPF came into existence in 1995, when the foundation was laid forthis year's inaugural 72-game regular-season. A draft was held in March,and by May 30, play began with six teams: the Carolina Diamonds, DurhamDragons, Orlando Wahoos, Tampa Bay FireStix, Virginia Roadsters and GeorgiaPride.

Jacobs was signed as a free agent catcher-first baseman in mid-April.She talked with assistant general manager and head coach Cindy Bristow,whom she has known for some time, and considered her prospects for muchof this past winter before deciding to play.

Some of my friends and teammates were going to play in the leaguebecause of the opportunity to play every day, says Jacobs, who isan assistant coach for the University of Utah. It was a tough decision:It went back and forth. Yes, no, yes, no.

Her decision has been a good one for the Georgia Pride.

Through Sunday, she was hitting .313 (ninth in the league) with a .393slugging percentage (eighth). She's fifth in RBIs with 25 and ninth in on-basepercentage at .365. She has two homers.

In the middle of July, Jacobs led the WPF with a .375 batting averageand was the Bombat Player of the Week the last week of June when she wenton an 8-for-16 tear.

It's been a physical grind, says Jacobs. I think wecan back off the number of games we play every week. We're not going toget a lot of fans Monday through Wednesday. But we're going to get moreThursday through Sunday.

Before this season, a woman pro in softball was something akin to beinga club pro in golf ­ you taught rather than played.

To that end, Jacobs has assisted at places such as San Jose State andOregon before her current role at Utah.

The top American players are on the Olympic team and are barred fromplaying for pay ­ except for money provided by the Olympic committee.Thus, between Olympiads, top players wishing to keep their amateur statusremain servants of the Amateur Softball Association.

And, given that Don Porter both heads the international body that overseesOlympic softball and is the ASA's executive director, don't look for a changein the near future.

In my own opinion, he's trying to protect the ASA because that'shis paycheck, says Jacobs. If he hadn't made that decision (onamateur status), ASA teams would've folded.

Porter has the power to allow professionals to compete in the Olympics.

Jacobs played on three Redding Rebels teams that won the 1993-95 ASAwomen's major national championships. Olympic pitcher Michelle Smith wasamong her teammates. But Jacobs doesn't think players should be tied toa limited ASA schedule.

There may be a half-dozen teams that play three weekends a year­ plus nationals.

What better way to have your Olympic hopefuls ready than to bein shape by playing every day? They could pay them from Olympic funds. Ireally think they've shot themselves in the foot.

Because many of the top players aren't willing to give up their amateurstatus, Jacobs admits the level of play isn't what it could be.

It's a step or two down from the Pac-10, says Jacobs, a formerUniversity of California star. The caliber has been disappointing,but you've got to start somewhere.

The college game is pitcher-dominated. To add offense to the mix, theWPF has pushed the pitching circle back to the men's 45-foot mark and pushedthe bases back.

We're used to making plays bang-bang, Jacobs says. Thatextra difference has thrown our timing off.

She says the League of Their Own generation laid the foundationfor the present WPF.

This is the next stage, like putting up the walls, says Jacobs,and 20 years from now, the girls playing Little League today willbe putting on the roof.

then, salaries should have grown appreciably over today's $5,000 tp$9,000, allowing players to train all year rather than depend on an off-seasonjob to survive.

There are a half-dozen women who married, Jacobs says. Butwhat if you have kids and still want to play? You can only hope there isan understanding husband or family to allow you to fulfill your dreams.

Angie Jacobs ranks in the top 10 in several offensive categories in the pro league.