Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

July 12, 2013

Ricketts, Team USA telling different stories during saga

OKLAHOMA CITY — Keilani Ricketts can get back on Team USA, maybe as soon as this week, certainly this summer, if she will commit to the national team for a period of two years, the same commitment Team USA coach Ken Eriksen said he has asked for and received from every other player on his roster.

That point was made clear by both Eriksen and USA Softball national teams director Ronnie Ishim following Team USA’s 7-0 victory over Canada Thursday night at the World Cup of Softball.

In fact, Ishim said he would take Ricketts back if she would only commit through next year’s ISF world championships, set to begin Aug. 13 in the Netherlands.

Of course, Eriksen and Ishim could have only been putting on their best public face, something USA Softball had failed to do ever since the story broke Tuesday that Ricketts, as of July 3, was no longer with the team.

But they didn’t appear to be playing damage control. They appeared to be very serious.

Eriksen was asked point blank if circumstances could change that would make way for Ricketts’ return.

“That’s a great question,” he said.

Ishim was asked point blank if Ricketts could return to the team if she committed through next year’s world championships.

“We’d be a fool if we didn’t take her up on that,” he said.

Ricketts, who spoke to The Transcript and other media outlets on Wednesday, had told a different story.

“We talked last week and they told me they wanted me to make a decision with the long-term contract before this summer even happens,” she said, adding that she had always been willing to commit for the entire summer.

Eriksen also addressed the contract issue after Thursday’s victory over Canada.

“Nobody was going to sign a contract to play on this team,” he said. “I think the contract actually had to do with being a representative of ASA Softball.”

It seems like one of those times everybody is telling the truth as they understand it. Indeed, Ricketts may be on the outside looking in of Team USA as the result of a colossal misunderstanding.

Speaking to Ishim after all other media had departed Thursday night, I asked him if, after the ASA contract talk broke down, if he then asked Ricketts if she could commit through next year’s world championships and simply leave the ASA contract as a separate issue.

I wasn’t recording Ishim’s words at that moment, but his response was that Ricketts had not asked for that middle ground; however, had she, things might be different right now.

I asked him again why he didn’t offer the middle ground. He said it had been Ricketts and others in her camp who had first expressed the desire to come to a long-term arrangement with ASA.

Indeed, the great regret may be that neither stepped into the void, looking for the middle ground after contract talks fell apart, even though both might very well have taken the other up on it.

Ricketts, who was reached late Thursday night, struggles with that assessment. She agrees the long-term contract was to represent ASA but says she was told explicitly that she had to sign it to remain with the team.

“They said the contract’s non-negotiable and I wouldn’t be able to be on the field unless I signed it,” she said.

She also took some issue with the idea that a two-year commitment is required of anybody, pointing out that a tryout camp is convened yearly.

Also, she sounded like she can’t believe it’s come to this. And, on that, she and Ishim may be in agreement.

“After I talked to her (July 3), I kept thinking she was going to call me back,” Ishim said, “and that it was all a bad dream.”

Maybe he will call her back now, or next week, or the week after. Or maybe Ricketts will call him back or Eriksen back.

Ishim and Eriksen both sound like they want her back. Ricketts’ feelings are clearly hurt, but she sounds like she’d like to find a way back.

Anyway, she’s supposed to be on this team. Every day she’s not is a bad day for softball in this country.

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