By KEVIN SAULS
Mike Abernathy, a former three-sport star at Sonora High School now living in Fort Collins, Colo., has been invited to try out for the U.S. Olympic men's fastpitch team.
The team will be selected during three days of intensive workouts and competition Jan. 26 to 28 at the Arco Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, near San Diego. Abernathy, 28, will be among about 40 players vying for perhaps 20 spots on the team, which will represent the U.S. in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
He was invited to the tryouts by head coach Pete Turner Jr., against whom Abernathy played in the Amateur Softball Association "A" Nationals last summer in Lancaster.
"I hit a home run off him in in the championship game," Abernathy said, recalling the 10-9 victory his team, Fresno Lyons, posted over Turner's San Joaquin Sharks of Stockton.
Playing with Turner were two other Sonora products, Mike Butler and Nate Devine. Butler was invited to the Olympic tryouts, but at last report would not be able to participate.
Abernathy is a shortstop by trade, but is willing to play just about anywhere for the Olympic team.
"I'm planning to be versatile," he said. "I can play anywhere on the infield except first base I probably could play first, but I've never done it before and anywhere in the outfield."
Abernathy first caught the eye of national-team selectors while playing for Verner Construction of Stockton in the 2000 A Nationals in Texas. He was surprised when he was approached by representatives of a selection committee that scouts big tournaments nationwide for prospects.
"You play this game for fun, with friends and family, and all of a sudden I find out there's this national committee and national team," Abernathy said.