2002 Seattle RBI Girls World Series Team 10-Year Reunion
It was the battle of two talented teams—one with near-perfect pitching, the other with record-setting offense. The 2002 RBI World Series Girls Softball Championship in Chicago pitted teams from Seattle against Atlanta.
This weekend at Safeco Field, members of the Seattle team, now young women in their mid-20’s, got together for a 10-year reunion to share stories of their run to the World Series and their lives since.
Both the Seattle and Atlanta teams were 6-0 for the tournament. The Seattle girls had allowed no runs and given up just eight hits in those six games to reach the final. The team from Atlanta, the defending RBI Girls Softball World Series Champions, had scored a tournament-record 45 runs over six games.
“We had no hitters going. We had a one-hitter. For us, to do it as a team was an amazing ride. The cohesion of the girls, it was wonderful,” says coach Jim Schell.
Jessica Wilkinson, who played catcher and outfield for the Seattle team, remembered that they weren’t the best team in Seattle, “but when we went out and we played all these other teams, we were having fun and remembering what we were taught and putting all that into action.”
Wilkinson says that everything, from the experience of the players to the hard work of the coaches, came together that summer. “They got us to relax, we hit our spots, and the other teams couldn’t hit us. And when they did, the defense came through and preparations met the perfect moment.”
The Seattle girls played teams from St. Pete, Pawtucket and Puerto Rico. They defeated Cleveland 8-0 to get to the championship. The team from Atlanta beat Philadelphia, Denver and Montreal, and defeated Memphis 5-4 to advance to the final game.
The night before the championship game, coach Schell sat the team down and told them “I was proud of them. No matter what happens, they should all be proud of what they accomplished.”
The next day, the Seattle girls were outmatched when three Atlanta pitchers combined to allow just one hit. The powerful offense came through again for Atlanta, as they scored eight runs to win their second consecutive RBI World Series title.
Wilkinson, who went on to play softball for the University of Washington, including a trip to the College Softball World Series in 2005, says that summer of playing softball, having fun, had a lasting impact on her life.
“Just being able to be a leader on the RBI team, even though I was a sophomore at that point during our run at the World Series, even though I was young, I could still bring in those leadership qualities because I’d led for years and through this important summer that we went to the World Series and we were able to represent Seattle and the program. It was amazing. It was a great experience.”
Wilkinson graduated from the UW in psychology and got her masters in sports psychology. Today, she is a recreation manager at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island.
“I teach youth how important sports and recreation are, not just winning, but how to win the right way, how to stay in shape. All those things I learned through RBI and the University of Washington and on. It’s a foundation for my career, this experience.”