In terms of veteran leadership, few have as much to offer as USA Baseball Women’s National Team pitcher Meggie Meidlinger. The 6'2” reliever has been a part of the program for nearly 20 years, and is a pioneering figure in women’s baseball.
Meidlinger’s first experience with Team USA came in 2006 when she was a rookie on the Women’s National Team which competed at the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Women’s Baseball World Cup in Taiwan. After dropping the first game of the tournament to Canada, the stars and stripes rattled off five consecutive victories en route to a gold medal win. The Virginia native made one start and three relief appearances during 2006 World Cup play to help Team USA reach the promised land.
Fast forward to 2023, Meidlinger continues to be a steady presence on the Women’s National Team. In the first game of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women’s Baseball World Cup Group A play in Thunder Bay, Ontario, last week, as Australia was attempting to pull off a comeback from being down 3-0 early, Meidlinger took the mound in the top of the seventh and collected three quick outs to end the game and supply Team USA with a 3-2 victory to begin the tournament undefeated.
After going a perfect 5-0 in Group A play, Meidlinger and Team USA are looking to get back to the top of the mountain next year at the 2024 WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup Finals in Thunder Bay.
Meidlinger recently sat down with USA Baseball to discuss the 2006 gold medal, the current state of women’s baseball, and the mission the team is on.
Q: What was your initial reaction when you heard your name called to be on your first USA Women’s Baseball Team and how does it compare to hearing it now?
A: “I have to think back to 2006 for that. Back then I was 18-years-old, I was one of the rookies on the team. Now, I’m the oldest one on the team. Honestly, whenever your name gets called it never gets old. It’s that same form of excitement. I still remember vividly in 2006, tryouts were being hosted at the (Oakland Athletics’) spring training complex and we were in the locker room for the announcement. That was a really cool feeling that I remember. Even this year, walking in the room with all of the coaches, every time you hear (your name), you remember it every single time.”
Q: What do you remember about the 2006 gold medal victory for Team USA at the Women’s World Cup? Is there one moment or memory that stands out?
A: “That was a stressful game. That game went back and forth, there was a rain delay, and we had several pitchers go in. I do remember Tamara Holmes’ shot down the line for us to take the lead. It was a whirlwind of a game. We had worked so hard to finally get to that. It was the crux of how they formed that tournament; that was the gold medal game. That was definitely a game where everybody had to contribute in order for us to win. It was a game that went back and forth. It is a game where everyone contributed to pull out the gold. Everyone always contributes, but in that game specifically, everyone truly pulled their weight and contributed.”
Q: In the first game of the 2023 Women’s World Cup against Australia, you made a relief appearance in the seventh inning and stifled a comeback to take a 3-2 victory and start Group A play undefeated. What was running through your head as you left the bullpen and stepped on the mound?
A: “The same thing that’s running through my head every time I leave the bullpen, nobody is touching me. I’m going to mow everyone down. I know my role as a closer is to stop whatever is going on and to shut things down. There are a lot of words that I can’t say in an interview that I say in the bullpen before going out onto the field. As the closer, that’s the attitude. It’s a one-run game, this is what I train for, those pressure situations. It’s a mixture of you being your biggest hype person and having positive thinking, but also slowing and calming everything down. You put in months of training for those moments, and my attitude as a closer is to come in, do my job, and shut it down.”
Q: What does it mean for you to be a veteran leader and role model for the younger women on the Women’s National Team?
A: “It’s a huge honor. I still remember all of the veterans who were on the team when I was a rookie on the team. Everything I learned from each and every one of them is what I put into my veteran leadership now. I’ve seen a lot of baseball and seen a lot of international play, so it’s a lot of fun to be in that role. I’ve worked with a lot of the younger ones through Breakthrough (Series) or Trailblazer (Series) and have known a lot of them for a long time. It’s fun playing a part in growing the next generation of those who are going to continue to lead Team USA.”
Q: What is it like having Malaika Underwood as a coach after playing with her on the team in prior years? *
A: “I love it. I can’t say enough of amazing and incredible things about Malaika Underwood. It’s been such an honor and a privilege to get to play by her side since about 2006. Her presence on the field, whether she is playing or coaching, is something unmatched, so to still have her out there is incredible. I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career without her. I basically have a second life of playing USA Baseball and I owe that all to her. She’s been a great friend every step of the way. Again, her presence, whether she’s playing first base or coaching in the dugout, is something that is unmatched. It’s an honor and a privilege to play for her as a coach now too.”
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to young women who want to make it in baseball?
A: “Be fearless, be brave, be you. If you want it, go after it. Don’t let anyone tell you no. This is a hard game, it’s a game of failure. It’s how we pick ourselves up and how we keep going that is going to form us and drive us. Don’t let the naysayers tell you wrong. If it’s something you want, go after it. We are here to take names and break boundaries. The coaches and players on this team have done that, and we are going to continue to push the ceiling even higher so more opportunities are created for the younger girls. A lot of us have been through whatever these young girls might be going through. I always say to reach out and phone a friend because you’re not in it alone. You have a whole sisterhood here that is fighting for you and supporting you. Again, if you want to play, go after it.”
Q: What does it feel like to know you have a chance to win a gold medal next summer with this group?
A: “I can taste it. 2006 was a long time ago. It was such a great feeling to win gold. The year after, we got bronze, but we’re not satisfied with anything less than gold. This team is taking names and this train is rolling. That was such an incredible feeling in 2006 and we’re ready for it now. Bring any team, any opponent, we’re ready for them. Let’s just keep this thing going.”
Q: What does the future of women’s baseball look like in your eyes?
A: “The future is bright. I always say that there are so many things going on right now that weren’t available when I was in high school. Despite my age, I like to think that wasn’t too long ago. All of the opportunities now with MLB and USA Baseball partnering for the Trailblazers, Breakthrough, and other events gives girls an opportunity to play baseball together. Unfortunately, growing up in a time without social media, I didn’t even know other girls were playing and it felt so isolating. I loved the guys I played with, and they were incredible guys and teammates, but something about knowing and playing with other girls, there’s such a sisterhood there. They become your sisters because who else can relate to being the only girl on the team other than other girls? The number of opportunities that are growing for girls in the game and coaching wise is great. You see what Veronica (Alvarez) is doing with the (Oakland Athletics) and what Ronnie (Gajownik) is doing with the Diamondbacks is really cool. There’s been such growth in the last 20 years, and I’m excited for the future. It’s going to keep growing, and we’re going to keep breaking glass ceilings.”