OLYMPIC PITCHER ABBOTT TO RETIRE
Growing up in Salinas, she showed great promise
>> Arguably the greatest softball pitcher the world has ever witnessed is calling it a career.
Monica Abbott is expected to announce her retirement Tuesday at an 8:30 a.m. press conference, ending a career that began as an 8-year-old for the Salinas Storm, ending with a pair of Olympic silver medals and numerous college and pro records.
The 37-year-old Abbott, who just concluded a clinic in Denver, flew home Monday.
“Simply the hardest working person I've worked with, that wanted to perfect any part of her pitches possible,” said Monterey Peninsula College softball coach Keith Berg, who coached Abbott when she pitched for North Salinas High from 2000-2003.
Having helped Team USA to Olympic silver medals in 2008 and when the sport resumed in 2020, the lefthanded hurler did not allow an earned run in more than 20 innings in 2020, striking out 31 hitters as a then 34-year-old.
“She gave up one run in the 2008 Olympics and she didn't get the start in the gold medal game,” Berg said. “Still a mystery to me and a lot of people.”
In between her stints as an Olympian, Abbott became the first woman to earn a million-dollar contract in the United States when she signed with the National Pro Fastpitch League, earning Most Valuable Player honors five times in the championship games.
The 6-foot-3 Abbott moonlighted in the Japan Softball League for 11 seasons, becoming the face of the league, earning MVP honors in her first season in 2010, leading Toyota to three straight league championships and six total.
During her 11 seasons, she was a five-time Most Valuable Player, tossing a perfect game in Toyota's first title game, and a no-hitter when the team repeated as champions in 2011.
“I remember after she beat the Chinese National Team as a 16-year-old, she asked me after the game `do you think I have what it takes to play at this level,'” Berg said. “I reminded her you just did.”
The 2007 National Collegiate Softball Player of the Year at Tennessee, Abbott used her 77 mph riser — still the fastest pitch ever recorded, to compile college records for wins (189), strikeouts (2,440), shutouts (112) and strikeouts in a single season (724).
Abbott was the first pitcher in NCAA history to record 500 plus strikeouts in all four seasons at Tennessee. Inducted into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame, she is the school's first softball All-American, hurling them to three College World Series'.
The Monterey Herald's Athlete of the Year in 2003, Abbott pitched North Salinas to three Central Coast Section Division I softball titles, winning 23 games as a senior, collecting 25 nohitters over four years.
Abbott, who announced her retirement from the Japan League after the 2022 season, had waited on making a final decision on her American professional career, having spent time working with pitchers at CSU Monterey Bay.