Former World Series-winning MLB pitcher and current ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling is currently in Oklahoma City to help cover the Women's College World Series. Despite his accomplished résumé on and off the field, some have questioned his inclusion in the event.
I sat down with Schilling prior to Game 2 at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium to talk about why -- and how -- he joined the broadcast team for the event, his deep-rooted love for softball and his advice for the Michigan and Florida players.
espnW: How did you get involved with this year's coverage?
Curt Schilling: I asked. I kind of bullied my way in. I've been in love with the sport since my daughters started playing. I got to coach it, and even got to an elite level at 18U, 16U. I came down to Florida and got to see some teams play and I've just been fascinated by the athletic ability. These truly are world-class athletes.
espnW: So you just said, "Hey, I would like to do this!" and here you are?
Schilling: Yeah! I asked, and said "I would love to do the World Series if possible" and [ESPN] was OK with it. It's great.
espnW: With one game under your belt, what were your first impressions of the event?
Schilling: It's everything I thought it would be. It's growing, which is great from an audience perspective. Again, these are world-class athletes. You can watch this and see something you can never see anywhere else. It's something you've never seen before. You're really watching something special. I like that. I like watching anyone who's the best in the world with what they do.
espnW: What do you think makes softball, particularly at the collegiate level, so special?
Schilling: Number one is the pace. They play an exceptionally quick-pace game, which I think is fun to watch, especially coming from baseball. It's a joy. I think more importantly is the fundamentals and the fact that at this level, at this point in the season, you see pretty much perfect softball. And that is an art, and watching is fun, it's a gift.
espnW: What is the biggest difference for you in the booth between covering baseball and softball?
Schilling: I try not to talk as much! I kind of compare it to sitting in the booth with [Sandy] Koufax and Ted Williams with Jessica [Mendoza] and [Michele Smith], and Beth [Mowins] gives me the Dan Shulman. So there's a lot of similarities there, but I'm definitely down the totem pole as far as IQ goes in the sport, so I love to learn as much as I love to talk about this.
espnW: There were a few people on Twitter during Game 1 who questioned why you were part of the broadcast. What would you say to them about why you're here?
Schilling: There were more than a few! At the end of the day, I'm here because I was lucky enough that ESPN allowed it. But I think the goal is ultimately to grow the sport, grow the audience. And if I can help do that and bring a different set of eyes to the sport, I'm not really worried about what Twitter says. I'm worried about what these ladies get from a recognition perspective.
espnW: If someone told you they had never watched a softball game before, what you would you say to them to try and convince them to give it a try?
Schilling: Probably for the same reason you would watch a prizefighter, or a Kentucky Derby, or any big event. You're going to see the best players in the world playing for everything. You're going to see 40 young women who have dreamed about being at this point, and they're here. You get to see those moments -- the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory. None of that gets more clear than when you play win-or-go home games.
espnW: How would you describe the fan atmosphere here?
Schilling: I've been blown away by the fans, and not just by the attendance but by the noise! I would love to see them play at a format where you play at the colleges. Can you imagine what the campuses at Florida or Michigan would be like right now? It would be awesome. And I hope that's where this is headed. Hopefully this is headed to a point where TV recognizes that this is an event that a lot of people want to watch.
espnW: What advice would you give to the players on both teams about playing on such a big stage with so much on the line?
Schilling: I can only give it because I'm looking back on it. I didn't appreciate it when it happened for me, but I would tell them to just savor it. I think some of the Florida players probably get that this year, but it wasn't until I was in my fourth World Series where I thought, "I'm going to take a breath and I'm going to enjoy this." It was hard because I couldn't have been the player I was if I just sat back and looked, but they're going to do things tonight that they will remember for the rest of their lives. Take it all in.