VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH
Volunteers often go under-recognized even though they are extremely important to the athletic community.
So important that many of the sporting events and organizations key to our lives wouldn’t be possible without those who donate their time to assist others.
Presidio Sports and Pacific Western Bank have joined forces to change that. This new monthly spotlight series is our way of thanking those that selflessly give themselves for the benefit of many.
To all volunteers making a difference, we salute you.
Softball helped pave the way for MeLinda Matsumoto to attend UCSB, play for the Gauchos and earn a degree.
Matsumoto is now volunteering her time to help local youth see where softball can take them. She is a coach in the Goleta Valley Girls Softball Association, the head coach of the Santa Barbara Seahawks travel ball team and an assistant at San Marcos High.
In recognition of the knowledge she imparts, and the time, energy and support she gives to the young softball players, Matsumoto is being honored as the Presidio Sports’ Volunteer of the Month.
Matsumoto pitched for the UCSB softball team from 2007 to 2010.
Looking back to her days as a youth player, she said it was the older players who pushed her to get better.
“When growing up, I had a lot of older girls teach me, so I felt like I should give back and help teach the next generation of softball players the game,” Matsumoto, 23, said. “Athletics help girls in many different respects; they instill confidence, camaraderie, and teaches them to work together for a common goal.”
This summer, Matsumoto guided the Goleta 14-Under Thunder B All-Star team to a berth in the national tournament. The team finished in the top 25
Like many of the girls who play in the GVGSA, Matsumoto’s softball life started with tee-ball at the age of 5. She played on her first all-star team at 10 and joined a travel-ball team at 12. She was a star player in high school team, earning multiple all-league honors at James Logan High in Union City.
“I love the game of softball,” she said. “It has opened doors for me that I never could have imagined as a kid playing tee-ball. It helped me get into a great university and I have been blessed to be able to stay in Santa Barbara after college.”
Matsumoto works as a senior consignment coordinator at Allergan Medical in Goleta.
She said there were three players who inspired her as a youngster: Olympic softball gold medalists Lisa Fernandez, Michelle Smith and Dr. Dot Richardson.
“I read Dr. Dot’s book as a kid and she really inspired me to give it all I had and to understand there is a life outside of softball, as she was able to get her PhD and is currently a practicing physician,” Matsumoto said. “As a female athlete, I knew softball was more than likely not going to be a career for me, so I used it to get into UCSB and play D-I softball, where I could play against the best competition in the nation at the time while getting a great education at a prestigious institution.
“I also looked up to the older girls within the softball organization I played for,” she added. “Vicky Galindo participated in the 2008 Olympics, earning herself a silver medal. Vicky was a player I looked up to for her positive attitude and the smile she always displayed. She attended the same high school as me and played in the same travel ball organization (Strike Zone).”
The coaching has rekindled memories of her days as a youth player.
“I really enjoy being on the field. When playing travel ball, I sat on the bench a lot, but I was always focused and learned so much from watching all those innings,” she said. “I was a junior in high school when I got my opportunity to start on the 18 Gold team (highest level of ASA Softball at the time).”
She shares her softball knowledge and experiences with the players and reminds them there is more to the game than the physical part.
“I want all the girls who play for me to learn the mental game of softball. You can have all the physical talent in the world, but without mental toughness, you will not succeed at softball. I even gave the girls a test this season. I also want each girl to know that she can do whatever she puts her mind to. I do not allow my players to say the word can’t. They are too young to say they can’t do something; they have endless possibilities, and you can do anything you put your mind to. Having a positive attitude and believing in yourself is key to succeeding in softball and in life,” she said.
It seems that coaching suits Matsumoto to a tee.
“I really care about each and every one of my girls,” she said. “Some of my co-workers have asked if I have kids because of the way I talk about them. I remember being in their situation. My softball family means so much to me. This season these parents have been absolutely wonderful. They have taken care of me, buying my lunch, giving me rides, etcetera.
“These are the people who make an all-volunteer team and league possible.”