The most decorated player in Fresno State softball history will have her jersey retired — on a day she just might get booed.
Nonetheless, Laura Berg can’t wait.
Berg’s No. 44 will be displayed, hanging from the press box of Margie Wright Diamond, during a pregame ceremony Saturday in honor of the three-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and four-time All American.
“I’m very excited,” Berg said. “It means a great deal to me.”
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Immediately after the festivities, weather permitting, the former Bulldogs star known as “Bergie” will try to shut down memory lane for a couple of hours. She will face her alma mater for the first time as a coach when her Oregon State Beavers take on Fresno State at 5:30 p.m. as part of the three-day Louisville Slugger Bash tournament.
“Coming back to Fresno will be great,” said Berg, in her third season directing the Beavers. “It’s always good to see the Red Wave. I know they won’t be rooting for me. But that’s OK.
“It’ll be good to see some familiar friends and faces. I have so many great memories from my time in Fresno.”
Berg, who suited up as a player for the Bulldogs from 1994-98, helped Fresno State win its first national championship in 1998, teaming with fellow greats Amanda Scott, Nina Lindenberg and Becky Witt. The Bulldogs made three trips to the College World Series and went 206-60 (.774) in all during Berg’s playing days.
When she was finished, Berg ranked No. 2 in NCAA history in career hits and was also the school record holder in runs, at-bats and triples and tied for the lead in career steals.
“I loved every minute,” Berg said. “I can go over all the details of the national championship in my mind. Some of the best memories I ever made.”
Berg, 40, served as a assistant under coach Margie Wright from 2000-03 and 2005-06. She continued in international competition and became the most decorated softball player in U.S. Olympic history. She captured three golds (1996, 2000, 2004) and a silver (2008) in the Games — and 11 total medals with the national team at various competitions.
By 2008, Berg had retired as a player and gave private lessons for a few months. She joined the Los Angeles Police Department but after one year gravitated back to the diamond, first as a national team assistant and then a year on the Oregon State staff before moving into the top job.
Berg might have taken over for Wright when she retired and left as the NCAA’s all-time winningest softball coach in 2012. But she withdrew her name from consideration, citing differences with then-Athletic Director Thomas Boeh.
Fresno State hired Trisha Ford away from the Stanford staff.
Berg was scheduled to coach against the Bulldogs in 2013 when the Beavers visited town. But the game was rained out. That could happen again Saturday, with rain in the forecast.
“It’ll be different to be in the other dugout,” Berg said. “But I’m looking forward to it.”