Jenna Rodriguez had no idea her trot around the bases in Alabama would lead to a walk down the red carpet in Hollywood.
In a dramatic turn usually reserved for Tinseltown, Rodriguez’s game-winning home run against the top-seeded Crimson Tide on May 30 sent the Hawaii softball team to the Women’s College World Series.
The stunning victory also earned the Rainbow Wahine an ESPY nomination for the year’s best upset. Rodriguez, Kelly Majam and head coach Bob Coolen will represent the team at today’s glitzy event at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
"All the hard stuff is done, looking for the dresses and everything," Rodriguez said yesterday in the midst of her preparations for the show. "Now it’s time to have fun."
The trio were set to attend the first preshow shindig last night and will be escorted to today’s ESPY ceremony (ESPN’s annual award show honoring the year’s best athletes, coaches, moments, etc), which airs at 3 p.m. Hawaii time.
With Majam on base, Rodriguez’s two-run blast to left field in the seventh inning of the decisive game in the NCAA Super Regional gave 16th-seeded UH a 5-4 win and its first berth in the WCWS. Two clips of the moment on YouTube have drawn more than 28,000 hits combined.
"This is the cherry on top right now," said Coolen, who arrived in Los Angeles yesterday with his wife, Nanci.
When the ESPY nomination was announced, the school and the players did their part to spread the word about the online voting. Also nominated were Franke Edgar’s win over BJ Penn at UFC 112; Northern Iowa’s upset of Kansas in the NCAA basketball tournament; and Y.E. Yang’s win over Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship.
"We sent out massive e-mails," Rodriguez said. "People I played Little League with, high school, club ball, everyone I worked with, my sister’s work, brother’s work, mom and dad, basically trying to use our networking to help the voting for Hawaii.
"(Their UH teammates) are all excited and crossing their fingers that we get this last win this year."
As for today’s star-studded event, Rodriguez is hoping to meet Olympic snowboarder Shaun White.
Majam drove up yesterday with her mother and sisters from their San Diego-area home, and checked into the upscale W Hotel Hollywood, where she spotted former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.
"That was really cool," said Majam, the NCAA’s leading home run hitter this spring. "Seeing Lebron James and Kobe Bryant would be really neat. Not necessarily talking to them, but just seeing them would be nice.
"I never thought I’d be walking down a red carpet or going to Hollywood. It’s definitely an experience I didn’t see coming. … I don’t know if I feel as glamorous as everyone else that’s going to be here, but I’ll try my hardest to fit in."