An usher gives a home run ball to a family at the WCWS.
Screenshot from YouTube

The Home Run Hand-Off Tradition at the WCWS Never Gets Old

At the Women's College World Series, ushers play a vital part in one storied tradition: handing off home run balls to families.

When we watch college sports, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that these athletes performing on the field are someone's children, but the Women's College World Series makes sure to make them feel special as they watch their daughters perform on the highest level of women's softball.

During the WCWS, there's a tradition that, for every home run hit by a player, an usher is designated to retrieve the ball and hand deliver it to the player's family. And every year in Oklahoma City, we're reminded why it's one of the best traditions in college sports.

A Family Affair at the WCWS

Alyssa Brito hits for Oklahoma.

Photo by Grace Bradley/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Morgyn Wynne, a graduate student athlete for Oklahoma State, hit a home run against Tennessee at this year's WCWS. It was a dream come true, but not just because she cleared the fence. Her family was given the home run ball, a joyous moment for the Wynne family and one Morgyn will appreciate forever.

"This was the final dream of my career," she tweeted afterward.

The tradition is a staple inside USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. It has been for at least the last 20 years, though ushers aren't sure exactly when it began, ESPN noted.

John Pillow, one of the ushers, spoke to ESPN about his role in the tradition last year.

"The people that work out here [in the outfield], it's an honor to give it to them," Pillow said. "Because they might not ever be back here again."

The players enjoy the tradition, too, as Jana Johns, a former player for the Oklahoma Sooners, notes.

"I think our families — and especially my little sister — getting the ball at the games last year and today is super cool because when they can see it, they can achieve it," Johns said. "I know [Blair] was so excited because she wants to be here one day too. So it just gives you something to look up to. I think it's really awesome that they allow them to do that."

With a tradition like this that includes retrieving a home run ball, there are times when ushers need to deal with fans, but according to Ralph Soto, another usher, it seems to go over pretty well.

"Most of the fans are pretty understanding about it," Soto told ESPN. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be here playing in the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. The ball is something that would mean a lot more to them than it would mean to me. So that's why we do it."

That said, there are some circumstances where fans must be reprimanded. Soto mentions one occasion during an Oklahoma and UCLA game in 2021 where a fan "jumped in between the fence and the stands, and he grabbed the ball. He went running off into the concession stand area and then he went up into the stands. He had an ear of corn, and I tried to get the ball from him. I chased him down and eventually, he was intercepted by the police."

From the parent's point of view, this is a special tradition that, according to Ian Johns, Jana Johns' father, is hard to describe.

"It's hard to even put it into words," Ian told ESPN. "It's something they work their whole lives for. You have a symbol of all the hard work and can keep it forever."

Let's hope this awesome tradition sticks around forever.

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