Crystl Bustos was destined to play softball at the highest level.

Anyone who has seen her swing a bat or make a play on a ground ball from deep in the hole during her high school years could tell you.

Yet, destiny has taken its time with Bustos. So long and so circuitous the route, she had given up hope of playing on softball’s grandest stage.

At 22, Bustos has finally arrived.

The 5-foot-8 Canyon High graduate, who never played college softball at a four-year university, will play shortstop for the U.S. National team next year at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.


“I never thought I would [be an Olympic athlete] because of the past,” Bustos said.

Bustos, who has had far more trouble hitting the books than hitting riseballs, has never minced words when it comes to her feelings.

A couple years ago, she chose a career in professional softball over a chance to make the Olympic team because she believed the selection process was “political” and that she didn’t fit the mold of what the committee was looking for.

She came to this conclusion after failing to make the junior olympic team at 16 despite what she deemed an impressive tryout.

“That kind of put a bad taste in my mouth,” she said.

About four years later, Bustos passed on an invitation to try out for the Olympic team because her grandparents were ill and she still wasn’t interested.

In June, the Olympic selection committee came calling again.

“When the opportunity came around again, I had to take it,” she said. “I couldn’t pass it up for the third time.”

But the decision to try out was not automatic, Bustos said.

Bustos, who is family-oriented, talked it over with her parents and other family members before making the decision.


“I kind of did it for them,” she said. “They really wanted to see me play in the Olympics.”

Bustos has taken Team USA by storm. Her wide range, sure glove and quick release forced coaches to move Dr. Dot Richardson from shortstop to second base.

With a power-packed swing, coaches immediately penciled her in as the cleanup hitter.

“She is a player. Incredible power,” said teammate Sheila Cornell Douty, Olympic first baseman who batted cleanup in the Atlanta Games.

“I’ve always been a power hitter, but I think she hits the ball harder and farther than I’ve ever hit the ball.”

Bustos, two-time national junior college player of the year, led Team USA to a gold medal in the 1999 Pan American Games with a team-high 18 hits and 15 runs batted in.

She is not exactly a secret in softball circles. She was highly recruited out of high school but did not meet academic requirements to qualify for admission at a Division I university.


Bustos played two seasons for Palm Beach Community College in Lake Worth, Fla., which provided little challenge. She hit better than .600 and had more than 190 runs batted in.

She signed a letter of intent with Cal State Northridge but again did not meet academic requirements and was not willing to spend another year in junior college working toward eligibility.

Still, Bustos’ options were many.

She was wanted by the Silver Bullets, the Women’s Professional Softball League and the Olympic selection committee.

Since it was clear the Silver Bullets were folding because of funding problems, Bustos chose professional softball, fulfilling a dream that started long ago on Canyon Country Little League fields.

“I’ve always told my parents, ‘I’m going to play pro [ball] whether it’s baseball or softball. I will be a professional player,’ ” she said.

Bustos is as sure of herself as she is stubborn.

Despite playing the second half of the 1998 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee, she led the Orlando Wahoos to the league title and was selected the league’s most valuable player.


Playing for the Akron Racers, Bustos missed several games last season because of Team USA commitments but was still named to the all-star team.

For all of Bustos’ accomplishments, she still feels a bit on the outside looking in because she never played Division I college softball.

“I catch myself every now and then thinking about college and if I could have broke records and all that,” she said.

“Lisa [Fernandez] got a name for herself because of what she did in college. I didn’t have that.”

Now, even after succeeding an aging Richardson, the most-publicized softball player in the 1996 Olympics, Bustos feels she has yet to live up to the standards set by former Olympians.

“A lot of people compare me to Dot,” Bustos said.

“I hear it everyday, so it’s kind of hard. I’m constantly having to prove myself. But I like the challenge.”


For the first time in Bustos’ career, she is playing where she deserves to play--with the best the game has to offer.

And loving every minute of it.

“It’s awesome. I’m learning more and more every time I step on the field with them,” Bustos said.

“This is like the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae.”