Henderson selected for USA Softball team

File photo/Cal athletics. Pitcher Jolene Henderson, formerly of Sheldon High School and Cal, was selected to the USA Women’s National Softball Team.

When Jolene Henderson was 10, her parents bought her a USA softball jersey for Christmas. 

Now, she gets to wear the jersey again, this time as a member of Team USA. 

Henderson, a 2009 graduate of Sheldon High School, was selected to the USA Softball Women’s National Team. 

Henderson’s selection came one year after her former high school and college teammate, Lindsey Ziegenhirt, played for Team USA.

Henderson announced her selection via Twitter Sunday. 

“Excited to be a part of Team USA and the quest for gold this summer,” she wrote. 

She learned of her selection from a teammate, Stanford catcher Jessica Plaza, while sitting at an ASA softball game in Los Angeles. 

Because Henderson had not checked her email, Plaza unknowingly spoiled the surprise.  

“She called and said ‘I’m so excited we get to play together,’” Henderson recalled of the phone conversation. “I was trying to figure out what she was talking about, and then she told me.”

Henderson’s father, Joe, was coaching the ASA game, but left his spot in the third-base coaching box to find Jolene in the stands to give her a hug once he heard she was selected. 

“I feel like every girl who plays softball wants to play for the USA,” said Henderson. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was little.”

Henderson tore her ACL during her senior season at Cal, yet still pitched in the NCAA Regional. Her college career ended in a 3-1 loss to host Michigan. 

Earlier in the regional, she threw a no-hitter against Valparaiso. 

Henderson set a new Cal record with 130 career wins, surpassing former All-American Michele Granger (119), now the head coach at Granite Bay High School. 

Henderson underwent surgery on her knee prior to considering a professional career. She was the third overall selection of the Chicago Bandits, a National Pro Fastpitch team.

Knee surgery prevented her from playing for Chicago. 

“The ACL was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” said Henderson. “I’ve never had to just sit around. My family was having to cook me food, my friends were feeding me watermelon. It was terrible. It was a complete mind-opening procedure for me.”

Henderson was durable in her four years as a starter at Cal, pitching through several painful injuries including a stress fracture in her hip and a concussion. 

Now completely healthy, Henderson is playing professionally overseas in Japan. All of the players in the league are on hiatus to prepare for the World Championships.

Henderson will return to Japan once she’s done playing for USA this summer. 

“I love it (in Japan),” she said. “The culture is a lot different. I know some of the language. I can at least walk down the streets and not feel out of place.

“It’s an awesome experience. I get to put off the real world and just get to be a softball player.”

Henderson gets only one day off from the end of her playing for USA before she is expected to return to Japan. Traveling around the world is becoming the norm for Henderson.

After spending three months in Japan, she came back to California, albeit briefly, and then to Virginia and Ohio as part of an exhibition tour. 

Henderson combined with Jaclyn Traina, a former University of Alabama pitcher, on a 5-0 shutout in the second game of a doubleheader during its exhibition tour in Findlay, Ohio.

The Ohio All-Stars managed just one hit off Traina in four innings. She also struck out five. 

Henderson pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out two.

Jessica Moore and Henderson combined on a no-hitter in a 12-0 win over the Virginia All-Stars.  

Only four of the seven pitchers were kept on the national team roster. 

In preparation for the ISF Women’s World Championships, scheduled for August 15-24 in Haarlem, Netherlands, USA will compete in exhibition games as well as three tournaments through early August. 

The tournament schedule begins July 7 with the General Tire World Cup of Softball IX in Irvine, followed by the Canadian Open Fast Pitch International in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, July 15-21, and Italian Softball Week in Azzano, Italy, August 6-10. 

“I’m becoming a world traveler,” Henderson joked.

Ken Eriksen (South Florida) will be the head coach for Team USA and will be assisted by Laura Berg (Oregon State head coach), Howard Dobson (LSU assistant) and Lisa Dodd (UNLV head coach).

“This group of 24 athletes that tried out is one of the rarest groups I’ve been around in a long time,” said Eriksen in a press release. “Their college coaches, parents and teammates need to understand the greatness that is within each and every one of them. As always, it’s a very tough decision to narrow the group to 17 but I’m very excited about the potential this team has.”

Aside from Henderson, the rest of the roster includes: Valerie Arioto (infielder/Cal); Raven Chavanne (infielder/Tennessee); Amanda Chidester (infielder/Michigan); Samantha Fischer (infielder/Loyola Marymount); Kellie Fox (infielder/Arizona); Lauren Gibson (infielder/Tennessee); Taylor Hoagland (infielder/Texas); Destinee Martinez (outfielder/Oklahoma); Haylie McCleney (outfielder/Alabama); Jessica Moore (pitcher/Oregon); Michelle Moultrie (outfielder/Florida); Sara Nevins (pitcher/South Florida); Jessica Plaza (catcher/Stanford); Kelsey Stewart (infielder/Florida); Traina (pitcher/Alabama); and Hallie Wilson (utility/Arizona).

“There’s just so many great softball players,” said Henderson. “I’m so excited. The really great thing is all the relationships that you build. From my Sheldon coaches to ASA coaches to Cal, it’s a great experience to be able to share with them.”