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Welcome back: Merced College assistant to face U.S. Olympic softball team

Suzanne Burrola thought her softball playing days were over.

The former Le Grand and Merced College standout finished her college career at Stanislaus State in 2006.

This spring she was back at Merced College, helping Steve Cassady.

Her spikes and glove had been put away.

Then she received a phone call in February from her old travel ball coach Dave Forte.

"I hadn't talked to him in two years, so when I saw his number on my cell phone, I was suspicious right away," Burrola said. "He asked how I was doing and then eventually asked if I was ready for one last hurrah."

Burrola wasn't ready for what followed.

"He said he was getting our old team back together for one last game," Burrola said. "The next question was who were we playing?

"He asked me if I really wanted to know. Then he told me we were going to play the Olympic team."

Burrola will team up with her old California Crush travel team to play the United States Olympic team in an exhibition game Friday night -- 8 p.m. at Visalia Miracle League field.

"Suzanne is my leadoff hitter," Forte said. "She may be one of the smallest players out there, but she's one of the best."

The game is part of a fundraiser for the Miracle League of Visalia, which helps disabled people play baseball and softball.

As a Junior Olympic Commissioner of the Central California Amateur Softball Association, Forte was asked to put a team together to play the Olympic team.

One by one, he started calling players from his former 23-and-under travel team.

"At first most of the girls thought I was joking," Forte said. "They were shocked, then excited and then they were, like, 'Let's go.'

"Suzanne probably had the best reaction."

For Burrola, it's an opportunity of a lifetime.

A chance to be on the same field with the greatest softball players in the world.

"I would have never imagined this opportunity coming along," Burrola said. "I was totally shocked.

"I guess it's more who you know and playing for the right people that led to this experience."

Burrola has been able to get her hands on 26 tickets for family and friends.

"I don't know if they are going to be there to watch me or the Olympic team," joked Burrola.

Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman, Crystal Bustos and all the Olympic stars will be on hand.

To prepare for the game, Burrola and her teammates have been practicing once a week.

They've also played games against fast-pitch men's teams.

Burrola has been hitting off the pitching machine at Merced College for a few weeks.

"We're 100 percent serious about the game," Forte said.

He's not kidding.

"Our goal -- I know it's a lofty one -- is to beat them. I know it's almost an impossible task.

"(But) we're not going out there to be the Washington Generals," Forte said, referring to the team that plays along with the gag and loses every game to the Harlem Globetrotters.

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