Four years ago, Oakdale High graduate Grace Green made a difficult choice as an elite collegiate softball prospect.
Would it be Cal, UCLA, or Oklahoma? Any option would have been fine for obvious reasons. Still, a life-changing decision has consequences: The right fit, the right program, the right academics, simple comfort?
Years later, we know the answer. Green crushed it. She will soon wrap up her career with the Oklahoma Sooners as a major contributor to one of the greatest collegiate softball teams of all time.
“The feeling is being thankful and grateful to be around these great athletes,” Green said this week. “It has been incredible.”
No, it’s been even better than that.
For starters, Green’s Sooners have won the 2021 and ’22 WCWS national titles, plus a runner-up in ’19. Her teams have gone a scorching hot 192-17. Last month, she married Bryan Mead, a former Oklahoma walkon linebacker who holds the school record for most games played (65).
It goes almost without saying that Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Mead are Sooners for life. And by the way, Grace loves Norman, which reminds her of her hometown, the Cowboy Capital of the World.
She crushed it. Of course, she did.
Green, the oldest of three children born to Daniel and Shawnda Green, was destined to be an athlete of some type. Daniel, a bona fide rodeo star, qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – rodeo’s Super Bowl --10 straight times as a team-roping header (1994-2003) and won the Cinch Timed Event title three times. Shawnda also excelled in the arena as a high school student and collegian.
So why softball and not barrel racing?
“I was pretty good at softball,” she said simply.
Yes, she can handle a horse. But her softball athleticism won the day. And there are no complaints from the parents for their daughter’s paid-for education. They celebrated alongside Grace at Oklahoma City, the home of the WCWS, as the Sooners clinched their back-to-back title in June.
“To be a Green, you have to compete. I think that’s Grace’s best quality,” Daniel said. “To compete is about the only thing I can say about Grace. I think that is what we passed on to her.”
The last time we saw Grace, she singled home a run as a pinch-hitter as Oklahoma overwhelmed rival Texas on national TV for its second straight WCWS championship. The ’22 Sooners were a juggnernaut, a crimson-and-cream machine which went 59-3 (.951) and outscored its opponents by a gaudy 514 runs.
“I never thought it would be this good after our 2019 team. I didn’t know if it would be better than that,” she said in reference to the veteran OU team that lost to UCLA in the finals (Green homered during that series). “Then last year happened, and this year was déjà vu.”
Green, a first baseman and utility player, starred as a freshman. She was a first-team All-Big 12 Conference selection, Freshman Player of the Year and third-team All-American among other honors. Her versatility and lethal bat have carried her throughout her career.
Green drew inspiration that first season from Shawnda, who struggled with Guillan-Barre syndrome, a rare and serious condition that attacks the nerves and can cause paralysis. She eventually recovered, but not before OU coach Patty Gasso suggested that Green visit her ailing mother.
“When real-life things happen, she (Gasso) has been super,” Green said. “When I was able to see mom, it was a big relief.”
When she returned to the team, Green slugged a grand slam among her three home runs during a sweep over Texas Tech.
Like many athletes during this troubled era, Green was forced to re-set due to the pandemic. The team was 20-4 before the season was scrapped in 2020. Since then, her playing time has diminished, but she’s OK with that.
“It is crazy how the recruiting is here. Everyone on the team has the same goals. We work so hard,” she said. “Every team has something special. We’re so tight-knit.”
Green has been granted a pandemic-induced additional season, and she plans on using it. She and teammate Grace Lyons are the only remaining players from her freshman season. They'll no doubt become leaders in a program that has claimed four national titles over the last six WCWS Championships.
It’s clear that Green, a faith-based student-athlete, is more than happy at Oklahoma. She hopes to become a speech pathologist after graduation while her husband goes into dentistry.
Her immediate future is thus: Finish softball on her history-making team, graduate and begin a career as a speech pathologist. And maybe, just maybe, she can team-rope with her dad someday on rodeo's trail.
Said Green, “That would be a dream.”