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A league of her own: bisexual second baseman Vicky Galindo stretches the stereotype of women in softball as she heads to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

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WHEN 24-YEAR-OLD VICKY GALINDO visits her grandmother, she often pauses to reread a letter hanging in the family room. The letter, written 12 years ago by Galindo's mother, who always believed in her oldest daughter's Olympic potential, describes Vicky as a spunky, passionate, and unusually talented young athlete. Her mother submitted those words of praise to a local radio station contest, which chose 12-year-old Galindo to carry the 1996 Olympic torch through the Northern California town of Winters, near her hometown of Union City. As she ran down the street past crowds of cheering people, Galindo recalls, she sensed the importance of "the torch, the flame, and all that it represents," while simultaneously realizing that this was only the first of her Olympic dreams.

Galindo began her career in softball at the age of 4 when her dad, who coached her older brother's T-ball team, tossed her an extra jersey and urged her to get out there and play with the boys. Even though she has "always been able to hang with the guys," Galindo moved on a year later--with her mother's encouragement--to playing girls' softball in a local league. Today, with three years of experience playing Division I softball for the University of California, Berkeley, and in her fourth year on the U.S. women's national softball team, Galindo is already a veteran of the sport. In August, when she travels to Beijing as second baseman with the women's softball team, she'll become a first-time Olympian as well.

The 18 women on the Olympic team are "about as close as you can get," Galindo says. And considering that they spend three quarters of the month together on the road, they'd have to be. Though they are a tight-knit group now, Galindo, who's had serious relationships with both men and women, struggled when she first joined the team with the decision to come out. She had been with her girlfriend at the time for four years and used to "talk on the phone in the bathroom or outside" in an attempt to conceal her relationship from her teammates. Monica Abbott, Galindo's close friend and roommate on the team, was the first to encourage her to share that part of her life with her teammates. Shortly afterward, Galindo came out to her team and quickly realized that all of the women are unconditionally supportive of one another "regardless of sexuality."

What she didn't realize then was how much her honesty would help other teammates. Lauren Lappin, who plays shortstop and catcher, says Galindo's openness was instrumental in her own decision to come out as a lesbian. She recalls that Galindo "seemed very comfortable with her sexuality, which really inspired me to be less guarded and to share with my teammates things that I wouldn't hesitate to share if I was straight." And although Lappin calls the experience "empowering," she notes that no one's sexuality has ever become a focus on the team. What is of real importance to her teammates, Lappin explains, is that "Vicky is this amazingly positive person who brings so much energy and enthusiasm to our team."

"Now I feel silly for being so insecure," Galindo says about her initial worries. "Everyone is so understanding and so great and so open about everything. They're amazing; they're like my sisters."

Though she will miss the intimacy of spending days on end with her team when the Olympic games are over, Galindo, who is currently single, is looking forward to having some stability and the chance to have a relationship again. After traveling 42,000 miles in the past seven months and sleeping in more than 40 cities to play over 60 games, Galindo explains, "I just really look forward to having my own place with my own things ... and knowing that every day I'm going to wake up and be in the same place."

It's likely one of her "own things" will be an Olympic gold medal. The U.S. Olympic softball team has been one of the most winning teams in Olympics history, earning gold at every summer games since the sport was first included in 1996--the same year a 12-year-old future softball Olympian carried the torch.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:PROFILE
Author:Connolly, Shannon
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 26, 2008
Words:701
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