If you tune into the Women’s College World Series on ESPN later today to watch the second game in the best-of-three championship series between Oklahoma and UCLA, you’ll see a familiar rodeo-family face that you’ve seen around rodeo arenas for years. OU freshman Grace Green is the daughter of 10-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo header Daniel Green, and she grew up in the original Cowboy Capital of the World in Oakdale, California.
Grace, who wears #21 and is 19 now, plays mostly “designated player, which means she bats for the pitcher,” explained dad Daniel, who’ll be front and center in the OU cheering section again this evening. Though her team was trounced 16-3 in last night’s game one, Grace stepped up to the plate in a big way with a home run.
“We got hammered by UCLA last night,” stated Daniel, who roped at 10 straight NFRs from 1994-2003 with brother Chris, Allen Bach and Kory Koontz. “We led the nation coming in in batting average, home runs, on-base percentage, earned-run average for our pitchers and fielding percentage. None of that was on display last night, but today’s a new day. We’ll regroup and go back at ’em.”
There’ll be another cowboy connection in the OU dugout next season, when Daniel’s fellow NFR header Charles Pogue’s daughter Raylee joins Grace on the Sooners softball roster. For now, Grace’ll keep slugging and also relieving senior OU standout Shay Knighten over on first base. Knighten was the heroine with a game-winning homer at the 2017 Women’s College World Series that put an end to the 17-inning longest game in championship-series history and led to a second-straight NCAA championship for the Lady Sooners, who’ve won it all four total times in 2000, 2013, 2016-17.
“Shay is unbelievable,” Daniel said. “She hit a home run last night, too.”
Grace Green is a pretty spectacular softball player in her own right. She is this year’s Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year, a first-team Big 12 selection and an all-region first-team selection, among many honors that also include being voted a third-team All American in 2019.
“Grace has had an amazing season, and it’s not over yet,” Daniel said. “She hit a home run against the best pitching in the nation last night. But as a parent, you’re proud of who your kids are and not just what they get done. You’re happy to see their success, but in our family we try not to let our performance in the arena we compete in define who we are as people.
“I’m more happy than anything else about who Grace is as a person. It’s great to see her play at this level and help this team get to where they are today. But like our coach (Patty Gasso) said last night after that loss, ‘This loss does not define who we are.’ It doesn’t matter if Grace hits a home run or strikes out, I’m just proud of the person she is.”
Beyond the softball diamond, Grace is studying to be a speech pathologist. The other two-thirds of the Green family’s three-ring circus includes Grace’s little sister, Kyndall, 16, who’s a track star who specializes in pole vaulting and also will compete in the team roping and goat tying at this month’s California High School Rodeo Association Finals. Then there’s baby brother Eli, 13, who just finished seventh grade and is the newly crowned California Junior High School Rodeo Association breakaway roping champ.
“After this softball tournament ends here in Oklahoma City, we’ll be home three days, then we’ll take Kyndall to her state high school finals over in Bishop,” Daniel said. “A few days later, we’ll take Eli to Huron, South Dakota, for the junior high national finals. There’s nothing to describe our life right now other than organized chaos. We know where we’re going—and it’s the best possible chaos—but it’s a race.
“We’re watching our kids grow and compete and learn a lot of life lessons along the way. It doesn’t always fall our way, but you pick yourself up and go back at it 100 percent the next day.”
The Green family’s tenacity has been tested hard here lately. For those of you who noticed Daniel did not compete at the Timed Event Championship at the Lazy E in March, there was a very scary reason for his absence. His wife, Shawnda, is suffereing from a very serious and rare condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome.
“She’d fought off a virus, so her immune system was compromised, and it attacked her nerves and paralyzed her,” explained Daniel, who won the Timed Event in 2002, ’08 and 2013. “She was diagnosed on January 18, so we’ve been at this four and a half months now. She continues to progress, but the nerves take awhile to regenerate.
“Shawnda will be fine in time, but at first it was really scary. The only thing she could move was her hands. It shut her down. But she’s been battling back this whole time, and she really is getting better. We can stand her up with a walker now.”
Shawnda was given last night’s game ball in Oklahoma City, and will be there with bells on again at tonight’s game.
“There’s been a lot on our family here lately, but we have strength in the Lord, we’re together and we’re strong,” Daniel said. “All the kids’ sporting events help pass the time while Shawnda’s recovering and give us a lot to stay strong for.
“I won’t be at the BFI this year, either. But Kyndall will ride my head horse at her state finals right before the BFI. It’s not my time to worry about me right now. And we have way too many blessings to count to complain.”