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Alissa Haber, a Newark Memorial and Stanford graduate, plays outfield for U.S. National Softball Team. Team USA allowed one run in its championship victory against Japan in the World Cup of Softball tournament in Oklahoma last month.
Haber is the Female Athlete of the Month.
The outfielder finished her senior year at Palo Alto with a .448 batting average during the regular season, earning 15 extra base hits, 29 RBI and five home runs. Fresh from competition with the U.S. national softball team in Oklahoma for the World Cup of Softball tournament, she is looking to capture her second gold medal in two months.
The U.S. Olympic Committee selected Haber, a Newark Memorial alumna, as its Female Athlete of the Month in June. She hit .700 in seven games and set a record for most RBI in a world championship with 19 in the month. After outlasting 15 teams from around the world, USA went on to shut out Japan in the ISF Women's World Championship in Caracas for the gold.
Tri-City Voice: Who were your sports influences? Who inspires you now?
Alissa Haber: My biggest sports influence was most definitely my dad. He was a national champion high jumper at Cal State Hayward. I remember seeing his national championship trophy in the garage when I was young, and I asked him if I could have it. He said no, and that I should go out and get trophies of my own.
TCV: What's your favorite part of softball?
AH: Playing softball for so many years, I have learned that the best thing about being able to play is my teammates. I have been so lucky to play for teams with so many different and amazing women, some of whom have become my best friends. Winning and losing, individual performance, these are things that I also value. But if I'm not enjoying the people that I get to experience the ups, downs and wins, then it's not really worth it. I always compete for my teammates. They are a major reason why I am still playing.
TCV: Do you play other sports?
AH: I played volleyball and basketball growing up. But I gave those up when I went to Stanford. Sometimes, on an off day, I like to go shoot a basketball with friends, or maybe hit up a squash court at Stanford for fun. But with my competitive nature, it soon turns into all out war.
TCV: When you're not on the field, what are you doing?
AH: When I'm not on field, I am most likely found with my nose in a book. Whether for school or for fun, I have always been an avid reader. I get so fired up playing softball, reading is kind of an escape for me, and helps calm my nerves a little. If I am on the road with Team USA, I also love going out and exploring.
TCV: What is it like representing your country around the world?
AH: There is definitely a lot of pressure playing for Team USA. Being on the best softball team in the world, you are expected to be on the top of your game every day, and you have to learn how to deal with stress quickly. There is a lot of responsibility attached as well. We are considered ambassadors not only for our sport, but also for the United States. Going to these other countries, we always get young kids coming up to us and asking for autographs, pictures, the bravest asking for the shirt off our back. You realize how important a simple softball tournament is to these people, and you really feel like you are making an impact.
TCV: Describe your hitting approach
AH: Batting from the left side, I like to consider myself a three dimensional hitter. Primarily, I hit for power. The hits that always feel the best to me are the line drive doubles the gaps, not so much the home runs. However, along with my power, I also developed a short game in college. I have the ability to slap the ball into the ground or lay down a bunt in order to beat out a throw to first from an infielder. I normally do this when a defense, knowing my disposition to swinging away, plays me back in order to give themselves more reaction time. Being able to do all of these things gives me more opportunities to get on base, and keeps the defense from feeling comfortable, as they don't know what I am going to do.
TCV: How do you prepare yourself for a game?
AH: For me, it's all about routine. There are small checkpoints, from the time I get dressed to the first pitch, where I have little rituals that allow me to feel comfortable and relaxed. For example, I always get dressed in the same order, I never step on the chalk lines until after the game starts, and I always do the same breathing routine during the National Anthem. It sounds kind of silly, but when you feel the comfort of routine, you don't focus on the high stress of the impending competition.
TCV: Describe a softball moment that stands out most in your life
AH: Winning World Championships last month is most definitely something I will never forget. Not just the fact that we won the gold medal, but because of the experience itself. Competing in Caracas, Venezuela, a popularly anti-American country, was something I felt a little uneasy about before we left for the tournament. But we were so welcomed by the people of Venezuela, and it made me realize the power sport has to transcend politics. Also, just from the team standpoint, there were 17 of us there. No parents came on the trip, as security was a concern. So it was just us down there, and the bond that we created in coming together as a team to get through two weeks in a third world country was nothing short of amazing.
TCV: If I were to pick up your iPod right now, what would be playing?
AH: I have a pretty eclectic taste in music. I really do love it all. Right now, my favorite playlists include a lot of indie songwriters and bands, along with a little splash of techno. It all depends on my mood though. But I was heavily influenced by my mother when it came to music. Some of my all time favorites are Pink Floyd, Steve Miller Band, Janis Joplin, Dire Straits and Tom Petty.
TCV: What is your favorite movie of all time?
AH: I love any movie made by Wes Anderson. He is one of the best filmmakers today.
TCV: How do you pass time on the road?
AH: My suitcase might have more books than clothes at this point. I read really quickly, so I always have multiple books on hand. Especially since some of the places Team USA travels to doesn't have consistent Internet, so reading may be the only way to pass time.
TCV: What's your favorite book? Do you have a favorite writer?
AH: Being a huge literature buff, you would think my favorite book is some obscure novel no one has heard of. But, in fact, it is not. My favorite book is Animal Farm by George Orwell. The reason is because although it is a small and seemingly simple novel, the layers that it possesses, along with the great quality of writing, makes it a wonderful book to read, and I get something new out of it every single time I read it (which has been over 10 times now). My favorite author is a harder question, as that changes all the time. Right now, I am obsessed with a Japanese author named Haruki Murakami. He is such an amazing and surreal writer, I have read three of his books in the past few years, and I can never put any of them down.
TCV: Where are you headed now?
AH: I am in Sendai, Japan competing for the USA in the Japan Cup. I return to my professional team, the Orlando USSSA Pride, next week, and will finish up the last of our season with them, including the championship tournament in Sulpher, Louisiana at the end of August.
TCV: What do you plan to do after college?
AH: I am going back to Stanford in the fall to get my Masters in English. After that, I am thinking about applying to a school on the East coast to get a Masters in Education. I hope to eventually teach one day, and perhaps write on the side. I am also trying to find ways to continue playing softball, whether with Team USA, professionally or overseas. But these plans change fairly frequently, so who knows what I'll be saying next month.