We've got a treat for you today, an interview with professional softballer and Golden Bear pitcher, Kristina "Thor" Thorson. The God Of Thunder is a force of nature both on and off the mound. She brings an unique point of view to this world, which fits in perfectly at Berkeley! Kristina Thorson bleeds the blue and gold, even having a Cal paw/softball tattoo!
Hailing from Washington state, Kristina Thorson fell in love with softball in high school, dropping several other sports to focus solely on pitching. It all paid off as you can see in this listing of her accolades from a single year at Cal:
- BA in Public Health emphasis in Infectious Diseases
- PAC-10 Pitcher of the Year
- PAC10 Medal winner
- 1st Team Easton All American
- 2nd Team NFCA All American
- 1st Team all Pacific Region
- 1st Team all PAC-10
- Set Cal single season record for wins (36) and saves (5)
- Set Cal career record for saves (12)
- Became only 3rd Cal pitcher to get 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts
- Lead the PAC-10 in 8 pitching categories: ERA(.83), innings pitched (302), strike outs (461), batters struck
looking (174), wins (36), saves (5), appearances (53), games started (40).
Wow! That is impressive. She currently plays for the Akron Racers and even played for an Italian team! Of course, with all these accolades, it is easy to overlook perfect the most important part of his biography:
All throughout high school, Kristina was very active in her school. She was a member of the National Honor
Society and was very active in band – marching band, pep band, the wind ensemble, and her freshman year
she played in the pit of the school play, Annie.
Come back to the marching band, Kristina! What potential wasted! Oh well, she's realizing her dreams on the softball field instead of in the high stakes field of competitive marching band. And that's great! We're so thankful to Kristina Thorson for taking time out of her schedule at spring training to answer some of our questions. After the jump, enjoy those answers. Thanks, Kristina! GO BEARS!
1. What interested you in coming to Berkeley for softball?
I always wanted to have a good balance between academics and softball, and both are top notch at Cal. This was probably what interested me the most about Berkeley. Plus, I always had my eyes set on playing PAC10 because I grew up watching UW play.
2. What is the softball recruiting process like? Were you considering other programs?
The recruiting process now is VERY different from when I went through the process. When I was getting recruited, you did what you could do get your name out there your junior year. But no real interaction between schools and players happened until 1 July after your junior year in high school. Now, kids are trying to get recruited in their freshman or sophomore years through a network of people, which is technically legal by NCAA rules.
I was contacted by 20 schools or so, but the ones I considered the most (other than Cal) were Stanford, Illinois, Cornell, Portland State, and the University of Virginia. But most of those I decided were just too far from home, even though they had great programs and academics.
3. What kind of coach is Diane Ninemire? How instrumental was Coach Nine in your decision of coming to Cal?
Diane was very instrumental in my decision to come to Cal, as well as a shoulder whenever I went through a tough time. She's one of the most caring people I know, and will do anything to help her players. Her coaching record and the awards her players have received speak for Coach's knowledge and leadership skills. But what It doesn't show is how she treats her team like a family. I can't tell you how many times I went in to talk to her just because I needed a shoulder. One time, after a 2 week road trip and a tough loss to UCLA in the WCWS Championship game, we got back to the field only to find my car had been broken into. She stayed with me waiting for the cops and helped me sort things out with them, even though I'm sure she wanted to go home just as bad as everyone else. I will never be able to repay her for everything she helped me with and taught me; all I can do is aspire to be like her when I coach.
4. What interested you in pitching? Were there any other positions that interested you?
The first year I played, I think I wanted to play shortstop. But my coach made everyone on the team tryout for pitcher, and I was the only one who could get the ball over the plate. So that's where they stuck me pretty much every game. I ended up loving it, and have stuck with it for 19 years now. I like to think that pitching chose me. However, once I started playing summer ball, I spent a lot of time in the outfield, which I also really enjoy. But pitching has always been my passion.
5. How would you compare and contrast your pitching style to Valerie Arioto & Jolene Henderson?
This is a tough one. We all get great spin and movement on the ball. But both Val and Jo are much more reliant on their change ups, which I am not so much. But all of us are very competitive, very composed, and will do whatever it takes to get a win for the team. Cal has a wonderful tradition of great pitchers, including Michele Granger and Jocelyn Forest, and both Val and Jo deserve to part of that group.
6. What is your favorite on-the-field moment at Cal?
Just one? Well, besides playing in the WCWS I would have to say it was a play made my Jessica Pamanian at 2nd base. We were playing a preseason tournament in Georgia, so it was pretty cold out. We all had our ear warmers on. A ball was hit up the middle that JP dove for and grabbed. As she dove though, her ear warmers fell in front of her eyes, and after coming to her knees and flailing for a second trying to figure out where to throw the ball, she threw a perfect strike to our first baseman to get the out. Talk about instincts.
8. Could you tell us about your postseason and WCWS experience? How did you and your team prepare mentally & physically to go through the Regionals, Super Regionals, and finally WCWS after the regular season?
My first 2 years at Cal were actually before Supers. So we had to win an 8 team regional in order to make it to the WCWS, which we did. I don't remember preparing differently during post season than regular season, the only difference that I recall is that all of a sudden all of our differences off the field faded away, and we gelled into a much tighter unit. For me, personally, my preparation included a little bit less throwing, but much more visualization. I knew that I would need to save my body more so than I did in regular season.
My first 2 years, we made it to the championship game, back when it was a single game to decide the champ, but lost to UCLA twice. My junior season we made it to the WCWS after beating Baylor in the Super, but lost to UCLA and Arizona in the first 2 rounds of the tournament. Playing on the WCWS stage is an awesome and breath-taking experience, one that I will always cherish.
9. What can you tell us about your post softball career plans?
I believe that in some way I will always be involved in the sport. But in the next couple years or so I plan on going back to school to get my masters, either in infectious diseases/microbiology or exercise science. I want a career in research, and I'm very interested in both areas. I'm just going to wait and see what schools I can get into and pick a program based on that. But even doing research, I believe that I will continue to give pitching lessons.
10. What should young softball players do to achieve the success that you did?
Always love the game and play because you want to. As soon as you lose the love of the game, it becomes a job and is no longer fun. Once you get to that stage, when you practice you end up going through the motions rather than work each day to get better. The more you love the game and find a way to keep it fun, you will continue to improve, and all the hours you spend practicing, preparing, and playing are for a purpose.
As far as actual preparation, a quote my old pitching coach used sums up my approach. "Champions do uncommon things; things that are boring and tedious to others." In other words, the boring, menial drills your coach asks you to do that focus on the minutest details of a pitch, swing, etc. are the most crucial drills in achieving success. If one cannot do these drills correctly, the mechanics being worked on will not be accomplished in the full motion.
11. What did you learn during your time as a Cal softball player that helped you in making career plans outside of softball?
I don't know if I would say that Cal softball helped me make career plans only because I knew what I wanted to do before I went to college. However, the lessons I learned while playing at Cal have really helped me prepare for the real world. Accountability, learning that you cannot control others and their actions (and being able to brush that off), multitasking and time management are just a few of the major life lessons that I've really learned and been able to apply because of Cal softball.
12. What did you enjoy the most about being a student athlete @ Cal? What advice do you have for incoming Cal student athletes?
I don't know if I could say I enjoyed one thing the most being a student athlete at Cal. The entire experience, though at times very trying, was absolutely amazing. I don't think I would change a thing about it. I played softball at the highest level, graduated with my desired degree at the best university in the country, learned countless life lessons, and made lifelong friends. My only regret is that it was over so quickly. I suppose my advice for incoming student athletes is to cherish every moment, even when it gets tough. The experience goes by all too fast, and if you blink you will miss it.
13. Who was the best dancer on your team and what was her signature move? Do you have a counter-move in a dance-off?
After consulting with a couple of my former teammates, I'd have to say that the best dancer was Lindsay James (LJ). Before every game she did what we dubbed the "banana dance." She was also notorious for doing the Napoleon Dynamite dance, most notably when during the middle of a game the field's power went out. According to my teammates, my counter-move would be my "catwalk" I do between pitches.
14. What was your impetus behind majoring in public health? What were some of your favorite professors and classes? Is there one class and a professor you would recommend w/o any hesitation?
When I was 13 or so, I saw the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo. Ever since that movie, I've been very interested in public health, especially with infectious diseases and epidemiology. It's always been fascinating to me, and I really enjoy studying microbes. I'd say my two favorite classes were Virology and Microbiology. I would recommend either of those classes. I don't know if I would classify either of those professors as overly exciting to listen to, but at the beginning of both semesters when I took those classes, those professors told me I had an uphill battle taking their class and missing a third of the classes for softball, but worked with me every week. Plus, I'm just a big biogeek so the subject matter in each class completely enthralled me.
15. Top Dog, Steve's, or Intermezzo? What's the "Thor" special?
Back in the day, there was a Korean BBQ place called Gomnaru that was my favorite spot. I also used to really like Blake's before the chef or owner changed. But out of those three, I'd have to go with Intermezzo. I am not a vegetarian, but their tofu and hummus are amazing! There was also this little dim sum spot a group of us used to go to on University between Oxford and Shattuck that was awesome.