Tokyo Calympian: Valerie Arioto, Softball, USA
The Cal alumnus can finally shine on the Olympic stage with Softball returning to the Games
If not for Softball being banished from the Olympic Games for the past decade-plus, Valerie Arioto will be a household name as the primary slugger on Team USA for the past decade. Arioto might be able to earn her due as one of the best softball players ever this summer in Tokyo.
Hometown: Pleasanton, CA
Olympic Appearance: 1st
Age: 32 (April 10, 1989)
Cal connection: Alumnus (‘12, American studies with an emphasis on media, entertainment and technology)
Cal accomplishments: One of the best sluggers (54 homers) in Cal history, Arioto lead Cal to the No.1 ranking in the country and several College World Series berths. Arioto was a two-way player for the Bears and had a particularly strong redshirt senior season, coming off a lost year to a broken leg, where she just absolutely dominated at the plate:
137 at bats
23 home runs
94 walks (17 intentional)
On Base Percentage: .474
She also went 20-2 with a 1.22 ERA (in the regular season since I could not find the total after the postseason) as the co-ace that year. No wonder she earned the Pac-12 Player of the Year as well as the Senior CLASS Award that year.
Back when we were over on CGB, Arioto made our Hall of Fame.
After over 10 years on Team USA where she helped the Americans to two World Championships, four World Cup of Softball, and three Pan American titles, Valerie Arioto will finally get to be an Olympian. She will be an important veteran leader on Team USA.
Val Arioto will help the younger players with the mental side of things as well. In fact, she has recently started a company to help teams foster an environment of self-growth.
[Valerie Arioto] started her own business, “The Integrated Vault,” which focuses on self growth. The company officially launched in October
“Everyone talks about how so much of the game is the mental side, but there is never really training in it,” Arioto said. “It’s really important to take care of ourselves to be our best selves out on the field.”
Arioto’s fiancé Danny, gave her the nudge she needed to get the business going.
“He was extremely encouraging,” she said. “I honestly didn’t realize that there was a big need, but teams have been wanting to do group calls or incorporate the lessons for team chemistry. It’s been really rewarding to be that person that can be a mentor. That fires me up when people have success and can figure things out for themselves.”
Arioto’s love for the sport runs deep, and she wants to help the sport grow in the future. Not only does she play for Team USA, but she serves on the USA Softball Board of Directors.
“I want to create other opportunities so players can play after college and get paid what they deserve for all the hard work they put in,” Arioto said. “Hopefully in the end after I am done playing I can continue to serve on the USA Softball Board of Directors and change that path for the next generation to come.”
The younger players on Team USA respect Arioto for all she has already done in the sport and the mentorship she provides on a daily basis.
Arioto chatted with former Team USA star (and Stanford alum) Jessica Mendoza about the whole wait to become an Olympian.
Unlike the collaborative relationship between USWNT and the NWSL (which still has its own issues such as equal pay, etc.), the relationship between Team USA Softball and National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) had actually been mostly antagonistic until very recently1. Players who signed deals to play on Team USA and the annual tournaments are not encouraged to play in NPF due to the overlap in schedules. The rift is such that many former Team USA players jumped to NPF and never came back.
Arioto had mostly stayed on Team USA over playing in pro leagues (although she did have a brief stint in NPF as well as in Japan), taking pride in wearing that “U.S.A.” across her chest. While other players may have given up on the Olympic dream, Arioto stayed positive and hustled on various jobs to make it works.
Hopefully, with softball earning more prominence due to its return to the Olympics this summer, a better pro league partnership with Team USA can develop.
Best of luck to Valerie Arioto and Team USA in Tokyo!
With just 6 teams, Olympic Softball will be a true round-robin with the top two teams advancing to the Gold medal game and the No.3 and No.4 teams playing for the Bronze. The competition will be played at two different venues: Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama and Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima City.
vs. Italy | 11 p.m. ET July 20
vs. Canada | 8 p.m. ET July 21
vs. Mexico | 1:30 a.m. ET July 24
vs. Australia | 9 p.m. ET July 24
vs. Japan | 9 p.m. ET July 25
Bronze medal: 12 a.m. ET July 27
Gold medal: 7 a.m. ET July 27
It’s an interesting ESPNW article with many rather sad details of qualified USA players having to give up on their Team USA Olympic dreams.