Michele Granger (born January 15, 1970) is an American former collegiate 4-time First Team All American, left-handed softball pitcher who was born in Placentia, California. She played four seasons, over 5 years, for the California Golden Bears from 1989-1993. She is a champion at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics for Team USA softball. She currently holds numerous pitching records for the Bears and ranks top-10 in several career categories all-time in the NCAA Division I.
Michele Granger answers my 10 questions. Written By Gary Leland
Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?
A. I started playing softball in the third grade I was a right handed shortstop which was fun, but then they realized I was actually left handed….
Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?
A. My father is the ultimate competitor and he was the person that taught me how to train and be ready for competition, my mom taught me that sports is only on part of a person. Between the two I got the drive to always win and the ability to leave the competition on the field.
Q. How did you get ready for a game?
A. Before a competition I made sure that I was prepared in advance and then took the day off right before the game. I had no special “pre game” routine for the day of competition.
Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?
A. I like to read, go on long walks, cook and play games
Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?
A. I think the way you grow up and the people that surround you have a huge impact on the type of player that you become. I also learned from every coach and athlete around me…I liked to pick my favorite characteristic of other athletes and incorporate it into my play.
Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?
A. No routines or superstitions which I think is a huge benefit when you have travel for competitions
Q. What is your favorite softball memory?
A. I have a few “favorites” but one softball memory that is special is the very first pitch I threw in the Olympic games in 1996. I remember very clearly stepping on the pitching rubber and deciding I was going to throw the ball as hard as I could right down the middle, I was pregnant at the time and I whispered to my daughter “suck it up kiddo mom needs all her energy to throw this one pitch hard” I knew the first pitch would set the tone for the game and it did…It was a hard fastball called strike.
Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?
A. Mental training really came naturally to me…I never really understood its importance until I realized it did not come automatically to all athletes. I really think controlling emotions and feeling prepared is the best was a to be successful in sports. I never really had a fear of failure and I just did the best I could on every pitch I threw and then knew I would not regret the outcome. Athletes that fear failure with ultimately fail when the pressure is on…my favorite part of the game was always when the pressure was on those competitive moments were always the most fun. When I was little sometimes I would walk the bases loaded on purpose just to see if I could get out of it with out letting a run cross the plate, it used to drive my dad nuts.
Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?
A. The greatest obstacle I had to overcome was to understand that each player is different and each person is responsible for their own training and effort. I could not as a player and I can’t as a coach make a athlete put in the time and effort to be their 100%. I have heard many players say they want to be the best, but very few are willing to put in the work to actually become the best.
Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?
A. After softball I did some college coaching and some color commentating but after the birth of my fourth child I stayed home to raise them. Now that they are getting older 17,16,14,12 I decided it is time for me to start a career and I went to Pastry school and I am not in the process of building a baking business.
I would love to go back and do some color commentating it was so much fun, but I have a much wider range of Knowledge now and I think I would bring a unique view because along with playing I have coached at just about every level (high school, JC, college, travel ball) ..Plus doing the commentating would still allow me time to get my bakery going.
No stranger to international success, Granger was a pitcher on the U.S. Olympic gold medal team in 1996, going 2-0 with a 0.87 earned run average and 25 strikeouts in 16 innings. One of her wins came in the gold medal-clinching victory over China. She was also a member of the USA team that won the gold medal at the 1995 Superball Classic in Columbus, Ga. In addition, she fanned 57 batters in hurling four shutouts and one perfect game to help the USA win the gold medal at the 1995 Pan American Games in Parana, Argentina.
Granger helped the USA team to gold medals at the 1994 ISF Women’s World Championship in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada; the 1994 South Pacific Classic in Sydney, Australia; and the 1991 Pan American Games in Santiago, Cuba. She was chosen as the U.S. Olympic Committee Player of the Year for softball in both 1986 and 1987.
She also pitched the USA to the 1987 ISF Junior Girls World Championship while setting records for wins (eight), strikeouts (97) and innings pitched (56 1/3). Granger became the only player in history to compete in the ISF Junior Girls World Championship, the U.S. Olympic Festival, the Pan American Games and an ASA National Championship in the same season (1987). A gold medalist at the 1986 ISF Women’s World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand, she registered a 0.00 ERA and was named to the all-tournament team in her international debut.
On the national level, she was a gold medalist at the 1993 and 1994 U.S. Olympic Festivals and received the prestigious Bertha Tickey Award as the Most Valuable Pitcher at the ASA Women’s Major National Championship three times (1986, 1987 and 1988). Ironically, her head coach at the ’94 Festival was Ralph Weekly. A member of the 1987 ASA Women’s Major National Champions, Granger later earned MVP accolades at the 1988 ASA Women’s Fast Pitch National Championship. A two-time ASA All-American, she was a nominee for the AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award in 1986 and 1987 and was inducted into the Amateur Athletes Hall of Fame in Johnstown, Pa., in 1986. Previously, she was an ASA 18 & Under Fast Pitch National Champion (1984 and 1985).
One of the top pitchers in the history of NCAA softball, Granger was a four-time All-American at the University of California-Berkeley between 1990-93, completing her career with a 119-52 mark and a 0.46 ERA. She owns 20 school records and five NCAA marks and holds the distinction of being a four-time All-Pacific Region selection, a four-time All-Pac 10 choice and a four-time Honda Sports Award finalist. She established what was then an NCAA record with 1,640 strikeouts during her career and had 25 no-hitters and five perfect games as a Golden Bear. She still holds Cal records in a variety of categories, including career victories (119), games (183), games started (162), complete games (155), innings pitched (1,202), strikeouts (1,640) and shutouts (94).
In 1993, she was honored as the March of Dimes College Athlete of the Year and as the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame Female College Athlete of the Year. During her tenure at Cal, she was tabbed as the Daily Californian’s Female Athlete of the Year on three occasions (1990, 1991 & 1993) and was named as the “Best of Berkeley” Top Female Athlete in ’93.
Granger coached at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from 2001-2004, after serving as a volunteer pitching coach at San Jose State University during the 2001 campaign. She also served as the color commentator for ESPN’s coverage of the 2001 Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla. Previously, she was a volunteer pitching coaching for the University of California, Davis, from 1997-2000.
Granger earned bachelor’s degrees in mass communications and history from Cal in 1993. She and her husband, John Poulos, have four children: Kady, John Michael, Lindsay and Nicholas.
Olympians headline Hall of Fame Inductions
Colorado Springs, Colo.—Four players who were integral in the success of the USA Softball Women’s National Team during the past two decades, including capturing the first Olympic gold medal in the sport of softball, headline the list of inductees who were enshrined into the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame.
Sheila Douty (Diamond Bar, Calif.), Michele Granger (Granite Bay, Calif.), Dot Richardson (Orlando, Fla.) and Michele Smith (Califon, N.J.) become the first members of the original U.S. Olympic Softball Team to be inducted into the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame. Each was a member of the 1996 USA Softball National Team that captured the sport’s first Olympic gold medal. Douty, Richardson and Smith also led the U.S. to its second consecutive Olympic gold medal in Sydney, Australia. Granger also becomes the first U.S. Olympian to be inducted into the International Softball Federation Hall of Fame.