Our last semifinal matchup of the weekend comes out of the Pete Newell Region and features a softball legend taking on a football star. Valerie Arioto takes on Nnamdi Asomugha as we move in the final stages! Arioto beat Steve Bartkowski by a SINGLE vote while Nnamdi pulled THE EXACT SAME FEAT in defeating Mike Montgomery. What are the odds on that? We'll take a closer look at both of them and then you can cast your vote to decide who moves on. You can take a look at the whole bracket here and voting will end Friday at noon. GO BEARS!
NorCalNick: College softball is a sport dominated by amazing pitchers. Top ERAs routinely hover in the 1.00-2.00 range. Often, games feel like a frustrating game of chicken, while you wait for one team to make a mistake that allows a solitary run to cross to break a 0-0 deadlock.
Which only makes what Valerie Arioto did even more amazing. She destroyed college softball pitching in a way I didn’t think was possible, and in the process received the Barry Bonds treatment from opposing pitchers despite being surrounded with players good enough to start for the #1 team in the country. Her senior year numbers still seem unfathomable:
137 at bats
23 home runs
94 walks (17 intentional)
On Base Percentage: .474
Almost half of her hits were home runs. About 17% of her plate appearances ended in home runs. If pitchers had challenged her, she could have approached 40 home runs on the season. And these numbers are for an entire season in the Pac-12, perennially the toughest conference in the country, and the playoffs, where offense goes to die.
The fences at softball fields are much closer than the fences at baseball fields, for obvious reasons. The pitching is tougher to hit, the heavy balls don’t fly as far, female hitters aren’t as strong as male hitters, etc. Arioto made Levine-Fricke field look like a little league diamond. Her home runs were no-doubters, moon shots sailing well over the fences erected to protect cars in the parking lot of the Strawberry Canyon Recreation Area, or laser beams that exited the field almost before you could react.
I know for every non-Giants fan, the name Barry Bonds is near-verboten. But for about five years or so, I watched the most dominating individual athlete I can ever recall. Bonds toyed with a sport renowned because you fail most of the time. And when it was over, and he retired, I thought that I would never see another athlete stand at the plate and control the game the way I saw him do it. And then a leftie came along who crowded the plate, but could turn on any ball with her bat speed. She wasn’t afraid to take a walk, but never let those walks take her out of her rhythm the next time a pitcher actually decided to challenge her.
Nnamdi Asomugha is the true embodiment of a California Golden Bear. On the field, Asomugha propelled himself to become one of the top secondary players in football while at the University of California. Playing safety at Cal, Asomugha was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2003 with the 24th overall pick where he then became a cornerback. What a cornerback he would turn out to be. Since the first day, Asomugha has had to prove the doubters wrong. Many questioned whether or not he was worthy of the high selection, but he silenced all of them for good. After his eight-interception season in 2006, Asomugha earned the reputation of a being a shut-down cornerback. In 2007, one scout told Pro Football Weekly that Nnamdi Asomugha was thrown at "less than any defender in the last ten years." The following year, Nnamdi saw even less action. Opposing quarterbacks tested the top-notch corner a mere 27 times. Asomugha allowed only eight receptions all year. He's a unanimous All-Pro selection on every team and has earned the right to be called, undoubtedly, the best cornerback in the National Football League. He is, without question, the undisputed leader and the heart of the Oakland Raiders
Nnamdi Asomugha graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Finance in 2006. More importantly, philanthropy has been a huge area of focus for the pride of the Silver and the Black. He has been partners with the East Oakland Youth Development Center since 2004. He emphasizes the importance of education, hard work ethic on and off the field, a positive attitude, and a healthy diet.
In 2006, Asomugha launched an annual high school college tour program. Each year, he teams up with the East Oakland Youth Development Center to take students from Bay Area high schools on college tours across the country. Additionally, Asomugha distributes backpacks to the incoming freshmen each year at Narbonne High School in Los Angeles. He also outfits the football and basketball team with shoes, a mandate he wrote into an endorsement contract he signed with Nike.
Not only does Asomugha help within his community, he also helps in his mother's homeland of Nigera, since he's born of Igbo descent, an ethnic group in southeastern Nigeria.
Education and community service are his mainstays. Asomugha serves as Advisory Board Chair for his family's foundation, the Orphans and Widows In Need (OWIN) Foundation. Through OWIN, Asomugha and his family provide food, shelter, medicine, vocational training, literacy efforts, and scholarships to widows and orphans victimized by poverty or abuse in Nigeria.
To top all of that off, Asomugha met with former president Bill Clinton to discuss the importance of global service and student activism at the Clinton Global Initiative University.
President Clinton's youth initiative designed to challenge college students to take action on some of the most pressing global issues in areas such as education, poverty and global health Here are some of the awards that Nnamdi Asomugha has been noted for off of the football field. Outstanding Community Service Nomination (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) Commitment to Excellence Award (2006) Commitment to Excellence Award (2007) Home Depot Neighborhood MVP (2007) Sports Illustrated 2008 Sportsman of the Year (2008) "Do Right Men of 2008" by Essence Magazine (2008)
And of course, Nnamdi signed with the 49ers in the off-season, so Bay Area Cal fans can get a good look in person this year!
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