As part of a continued celebration of its award-winning Girls with Game Initiative, Little League® International had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Softball America Lead Editor, Kayla Lombardo, about her experience playing for Pequannock (N.J.) Little League at the 2006 Little League Softball® World Series. Ms. Lombardo’s team went on to make it to the championship game before falling to Mattawan (Mich.) Little League, 6-2.
After her Little League career, Ms. Lombardo went on to play Division I softball at Fordham University where she helped lead her team to three Atlantic 10 Conference Championships and was named a two-time First Team All-Atlantic 10 Conference honoree and a two-time Third Team NFCA All-Region selection. In addition to her collegiate playing experience, Ms. Lombardo later went on to coach Division I softball at Lehigh University and served as a writer for Sports Illustrated and Excelle Sports before her current role at Softball America.
During that memorable summer in 2006, Ms. Lombardo’s team won every game leading into the Championship at the Little League Softball World Series, but it was the experience as a whole that will forever go down in her record books.
Below is a six-inning interview with Ms. Lombardo about her experience at the Little League Softball World Series and on the current state of softball.
Little League: What was your experience like playing in the Little League Softball World Series?
Kayla Lombardo: It was a dream come true for me. I grew up watching the Little League Softball World Series and it was always a goal of mine to get there with my team. Once we got there, it was everything that I could have imagined and more. To this day, it is one of the highlights of my softball life, and that’s after winning championships in high school and college. Even now, covering the sport professionally, my Little League experience still ranks up as one of the top moments of my softball career.
LL: Is there a favorite memory or moment from your Little League Softball World Series experience?
KL: I got to experience the Little League Softball World Series with my dad, who was our assistant coach. That is something that he and I shared and still talk about today. Lots of people have been there but haven’t necessarily had the chance to do that with their parent, so having that time together to share our love for softball and our love for our community was something that we will never forget. Softball was a huge way that my dad and I bonded since I was a young girl, and because of that, I always knew he had my back and was sharing that journey with me. That comfort and security of knowing he was with me for every pitch through my entire life all started in Little League. Now, as a woman, I look back at my experience in Little League and realize how important it was to give me an opportunity to play as a young girl. That gave me confidence from a young age that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise if I didn’t play Little League Softball.
LL: What impact do you think the game of softball has on the development of young females?
KL: It’s important for young women and girls to feel that their athletic endeavors are important, and just as important as the boys. My experience playing in the Little League Softball World Series made me feel like I was just as important as the boys in Williamsport. Playing later in college, with everything that Title IX has done for women, I got to have another taste of that. We still have a long way to go in that regard, especially at the professional level, but those steps are crucial for the success and growth of women’s sports.
LL: When you hear the phrase “Girls with Game” what do you think of?
KL: I think all girls have game, and that’s not limited to only those who play softball. Every girl is born with special gifts and abilities that will lead them to different career paths and life decisions. For me, softball has been everything in life. It has led me to my career and helped me meet my husband. Girls with Game can transcend what happens on the field and can stretch into someone’s life, their career, and their overall experience.
LL: What does it mean to you to see softball coming back to the Olympics in 2020?
KL: It’s the most amazing thing. I just recently saw Team USA play, and during their games, you see all these little girls wearing their jerseys, watching them so closely, waiting for autographs. I don’t think we realize how important that representation is, but it’s important for young girls to see all these different women with different stories and different backgrounds. The more we showcase diversity and the unique stories of women, the more it is going to empower more people to live their own lives through the game of softball.
LL: What advice would you have for a young female athlete today?
KL: Enjoy the game. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the game is so beautiful and so much fun. You get so caught up in results and things you can’t control that you don’t focus as much on the actual experience. For me and every teammate I’ve ever had, we miss it so much. The feeling of putting on your cleats, feeling the dirt under your feet, and the ball hitting your bat, that isn’t something you get to do forever. Enjoying the beautiful game that is softball for as long as you can, as much as you possibly can, regardless of the result is the most important thing that any young athlete can do.
To learn more about some notable alumni who have gone on through the Little League program, visit LittleLeague.org/Alumni.