Women’s College World Series ushers deliver lasting memories

The Women’s College World Series is the pinnacle of college softball, and the legendary tournament is steeped in tradition.

One of the most joyful rituals is performed by Oklahoma City ushers, who return home run balls to the families of the players who hit them.

ESPN’s Dave Wilson chronicled the custom, speaking with John Pillow, an usher at the event.

“People who work here [in the outfield], it’s an honor to give it to them,” Pillow said. “Because they may never come back here again.”

Mary Koch, another usher, said this year’s tournament was her 20th. She worked the first base side for Thursday’s games.

“I like to run and hold it in the air,” Koch said. “Everyone always shows where mom and dad are and it’s so much fun to go and give it to them.”

While no one knows exactly where the tradition began, it’s an unofficial rule that fans and staff have continued to embrace.

“Most fans are pretty understanding about it,” said second-year left fielder Ralph Soto. “It’s a unique experience to be here to play in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. The ball is something that would mean a lot more to them than to me. That’s why we do it.

The ritual also means a lot to families. Michelle Williams, mother of Karli Petty, received the game-clinching fly ball from her daughter in Oklahoma State’s 4-2 victory.

“For them to get it for us, as a mother, means a lot,” Williams said. “It’s special, because they work so hard to be here and it’s every girl’s dream to be able to do that.”

WCWS continues Saturday with No. 1 Oklahoma taking on Texas at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.