MENDOZA LEAVES US SOFTBALL

Jessica Mendoza traveled the world playing tournaments and in two Olympics for the powerful U.S. softball team.

That decade-long journey, for now, is over.

Mendoza, a two-time Olympic medalist, and seven of her teammates from the 2008 Beijing Games, will not play for Team USA this year, opting to play professionally instead in hopes of growing a sport dropped from the Olympic program.

"I never imagined this would be how I would leave USA Softball," Mendoza said Wednesday in a phone interview from her home in California. "I hope it's not the end."

Mendoza said she and the others informed Amateur Softball Association of America this month that they were declining invitations to attend the U.S. team's June camp so they can play exclusively in the four-team National Pro Fastpitch league.

Mendoza, who is also president of the Women's Sports Foundation, said it became too difficult for players to fulfill the obligation of playing for the U.S. team and in the NPF, whose schedules intersect. Moreover, because the U.S. Olympic Committee has dropped funding — over $1 million in an Olympic year — for softball, there was no financial reward for playing for their country.