Valley community rally around Nickles’ Olympic pursuit for softball gold

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MERCED, Calif .– In the North Valley these days, Madilyn “Bubba” Nickles is a big deal.

“It’s so wonderful, every time I go to the grocery store, ‘people are like, oh my god you are Bubba Nickles’,” said the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic softball team, when we met her. home in Atwater recently, before he left for Tokyo.

And the support of her local community extended to her mother’s workplace.

“I work at Costco here in Merced,” said her mother Natalie. “And they put together a bunch of shirts that say, ‘We support American softball, and (they) put their name and number on their backs. “

Bubba is used to this kind of attention, as she has been on the national radar since her high school days. She was named the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year as a Senior at Merced High School in 2016.

A year later, she was named U.S. Junior Female Softball Athlete of the Year, then enjoyed an all-American season as a junior at UCLA, helping lead the Bruins to a national championship in 2019.

But if you talk to her parents, softball is only a small part of what makes their daughter special.

“I get more compliments on her personality, or how friendly she is, how received she is with others,” her father Ted said. “His faith is very strong. I mean, I couldn’t be prouder.

“She is loving and kind, generous and just a hard worker,” added Natalie. “And I mean, she’s everything, and she makes us so proud.”

So it’s no surprise that her family and friends across the valley from Sacramento to Merced to Fresno will be supporting her as she goes for gold in Tokyo.

“We’re going to have watch parties here and invite everyone who wants to come and watch,” Ted said.

And win or lose, Bubba will take with her to the Olympic Diamond in Tokyo, the lessons learned thousands of kilometers away in the Central Valley.

“Stay true to herself, play the game the way she always played it,” Natalie replied, when asked what advice she would give her daughter before the Olympics.

“You just have to play hard and have fun,” Ted summed up. “That’s how I’ve always trained her.

Bubba and Team USA will actually open the Olympic competition ahead of the Opening Ceremonies on Friday. Their first game against Italy will take place at 8 p.m. PT on Tuesday evening (12 p.m. Wednesday in Tokyo). It will air on NBC Sports Network.

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