TAMPA, Fla. — To Bethaney Keen, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is just a stepping-stone for the sport of softball.
The hard-hitting first baseman for the University of South Florida Bulls believes the world stage will be, as she put it, “a chance that softball has to go and prove that it belongs in the Olympics.”
With softball’s confirmed omission from the Summer Games in Paris 2024, there is a statement to be made for many young girls who aspire to reach the peak of their sport. That opportunity lies with the contestants in 2020.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Keen said, following a doubleheader at USF Softball Stadium. “They’re going to idolize these players, they’re role models to them and that’s something that they’ll want to look forward to one day being a young athlete. I know I did.”
Having played for the Team USA Junior Women’s National Team in 2017, Keen acknowledges what the game can mean to players at the grassroots level.
“It gives them hope and something to work for. It’s a goal that they can try to achieve as they get older and move to the national stage.
“You know, always wanting to better themselves and continue to be the player that they, and other girls, look up to,” said Keen, reflecting on her own experiences.
An international showcase is exactly what the sport needs to transcend itself moving forward.
Keen’s message to aspiring softball players with dreams of playing in the Olympics is simple. Don’t compromise for anyone.
“You have to love it, love the game and play it with passion,” Keen said. “Things might not go your way and people might tell you that you can’t do something, or that you’re too short, but if you have love and you bust it, you can do anything. I really believe that.”