Lisa Fernandez, a three-time Olympic champion and perhaps softball's signature star for more than a decade, did not make the U.S. team's final 15-player roster for the Beijing Games.
"It's like Michael Jordan getting cut from the basketball team," said catcher Stacey Nuveman.
The 37-year-old Fernandez was named a replacement player on the American team, which will attempt to win its fourth straight gold medal this summer. Fernandez was on the mound when the U.S. team won gold in Athens, completing a historic run through the tournament in which the Americans outscored the competition 51-1.
Fernandez was also the starting pitcher when the U.S. won it all in Sydney in 2000. Four years earlier, she came in as a reliever when the Americans lcinched gold in Atlanta.
"I have no regrets," Fernandez said. "I know I gave it everything I had. There wasn't a corner cut or a practice missed. I just ran out of time. To me, the most important thing is that I know I gave it everything I had. But there were certain things I couldn't control."
She was making a comeback after missing three years of international competition to start a family and never quite got back to form.
"I was really hoping she would get close to where she was in 2004," said U.S. coach Mike Candrea. "She is still in my eyes the best player who has ever played this game. I wanted her to go out on top."
Candrea kept only three pitchers: returning gold medalists Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman, as well as first-time Olympian Monica Abbott. Alicia Hollowell, a hard-throwing right-hander who played for Candrea at Arizona, was also named a replacement player.
Candrea will only make changes to his roster if there are injuries. He must submit it to the U.S. Olympic Committee for final approval by July 1.