My Story - Brittney Matta
Updated: Oct 2, 2020
I owe my softball career to my dad. Growing up, my he coached high school baseball. California is where I call home. My dad was a coach at Woodland HS (Dustin Pedroia), where I would eventually attend. Woodland is a small farm town just north of Sacramento. I was around baseball ALL THE TIME. When I chose to play softball, I knew my dad would make an impact. No one ever pushed me harder. He had me practicing every day and he instilled values in me at a young age so that I always knew how to work hard on my own. I was also fortunate enough to have a younger sister that was more athletically gifted than I was. Along the way she took the brunt of all my bad practice days. She was just naturally more gifted, but I was ok with that because it made my work ethic second to none. I learned that if I wanted to achieve something I would have to put in the extra effort. And that’s exactly what I did. Extra effort is what makes MY STORY.
Playing high school ball and club ball is never enough. You have to work harder than the very best in order to be the best. I was never the best, and for that I am extremely grateful. I was a humble kid playing with a chip on her shoulder. I could outwork anyone on the field. When I went to my first all-star tryout I was new to catching and in the eighth grade. I was on the younger end of the spectrum of girls and I got the chance to catch for a junior in high school, one that thought I was worthless. I left that try out with a new friend and a pitcher that preferred throwing to me over the seasoned vets. Catching became my passion. To be a catcher you have to be a certain type of person. You have to be a great leader and know how to take command, but you also have to gain everyone’s trust on the field. I earned that respect from every single girl.
I did my share of hitting and catching lessons with coaches. I did my share of showcases and skills camps. I was never the best and I was never on a great team that dominated, so I had to work hard. It was my first showcase with All- American Softball Academy as a junior in high school that I started receiving interest letters from schools. University of Texas was my dream school. I got offers from countless schools across California, several east coast schools and went to visit Texas in the summer before my senior year.
I met head coach, Connie Mack. I walked the campus. I watched practices and games. AND, I hated it! There I was at my dream school and I absolutely hated it. On the way back to California, we made a stop at Arizona State. I had received personal letters from the former head coach there and wanted to see what it was all about. This is where my story gets interesting. I am a firm believer that if you work hard, fate and work ethic will determine where you will end up, because what’s meant to be will always be. Like I said, I was recruited by the former coaching staff---the current staff was much better. The moment I drove into Tempe, however, I knew that is where I belonged. The water and Mill Bridge, A Mountain and the football stadium, and a sunset that was to die for, made it seem like it was right out if a dream. I took in a few games and introduced myself to the new head coach, Clint Myers. He recruited all his own girls, and I was not one of them. So after a brief conversation I left Tempe and headed back home to finish my senior year, unsure of what my visit would bring.
Fast-forward one year. One year of extremely hard work. I graduated with a 4.17 GPA, turned down the opportunity to play at a number of big schools and took a leap of faith. My supportive parents sent me to ASU knowing that I was not receiving any help financially. In late August, I tried out for the team, and Coach Myers remembered me from the summer before. I was the ONLY girl to make the roster. My hard work had paid off. I was definitely in the right place at the right time. We went on to win two National Championships.
My freshman year, I did not hit one single ball. My job was to be the bullpen catcher. I am not kidding you when I say; he made up drills for me so that I would not get the chance to hit. I look back now and laugh, but boy was it discouraging. But as I said before, catchers are the leaders of the team and in a way I had the most important job, to know each pitcher in and out and to get them prepared for their job on the mound. My first year, I remember receiving the best compliment that a teammate could give me. Our All- American 2nd basemen told me that I was one of the best leaders on the team because I knew what my job was and was completely selfless. That is why I preach to players today to understand their roles on a team and the sooner you do that and take responsibility, the faster you create a mature leader. In 2007 we went to the Women’s College World Series and lost our first two games. We were out of the tournament and a dream I had about going as a little girl felt like a bad nightmare. I was the only one that cried when we lost.
My sophomore year I knew would be tougher than the year before simply because I hadn’t touched a bat near enough. I remember there were two other catchers coming in and I would have to work twice as hard. But that never stopped me before. I worked my butt off all fall. I was hitting and trying to earn my spot in the lineup. Late fall came around and I had great successes in fall games against junior colleges. My swing looked good and I felt confident and at ease. Coach Myers called me in to his office and immediately I knew I wasn’t going to like the outcome. He explained that I would not be traveling on Pac-10 road trips with the team. I felt like no matter how hard I worked it was going unnoticed. BUT, my team still needed me and I could not let them down. I traveled on my own to several of the away series to cheer my teammates on and I was back at it each week at practice letting them know, especially the pitchers, that my effort would not change. In 2008 we went to the WCWS and we won it all for the first time in school history! It was the best feeling in the world. And that is the moment I knew that even though my hard work wasn’t making me the very best, it was most certainly paying off. It was the next fall, 2008 when we returned that I got injured. I was doing box jumps in the weight room and tore several ligaments in my right knee. Coach Myers approached me with an offer that would set me up for the life I live now.
I always just worked hard. It was all I knew. So when I got injured it was extremely hard for me to ease up. Coach approached me about becoming an undergraduate assistant and coaching my teammates. It was a difficult decision to make, but my coach valued the way I held my teammates accountable and he complimented me on the way I coached younger kids at camps. I went on to be an undergrad assistant for 2 years and then a graduate assistant working on my masters for 2 more! The opportunity to work under such an elite coach was amazing and he trusted me to make practice plans, coach camps on my own, and hold the ASU team accountable in many ways. I had administrative and field duties and I excelled at all of them because I was learning first hand from a man that loved the game. That injury ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. Through that I became a coach!
Along the way, I met some of my best friends, and even more importantly Coach Myers taught us how to be great women. We were part of a group that went to The White House and met President George W. Bush, we had countless media opportunities and most importantly Coach Myers saw something in me that I did not see in myself, coaching. “Greatness is a way of Life” is something he would say to us often. I strongly believe that he helped mold me into a great player and a great person. I have now coached at the high school level as a head coach, and am currently a Junior College Head Coach. I believe that each girl has the ability to play softball at the collegiate level if they work hard, and I still work hard to instill the values of greatness in each player I work with on and off the field.