She nearly won the NCAA triple crown as a junior at Harvard, but 'Hard-Hittin' Tiffany Whitton has yet to find her alumni softball team. Obviously, someone doesn't know who they are missing.
Tiffany Whitton's favorite softball experience at Harvard was her team's win against Princeton during her junior year. "We were down by one run in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and bases loaded," she remembers. "I came up to bat and hit a grand slam to win the game. The home run didn't make the moment, but rather the fact that my teammates had rallied in the seventh to get us back into position to win the game."
Moments like these were frequent for the Harvard junior because in 2002 she had a standout year. Whitton led the nation in RBI, was third in home runs per game and sixth in batting average. Yet she was ignored when it came time for All-America selections. The oversight may have been a result of Harvard's squad, all freshman and sophomores except for Whitton, failing to qualify for the NCAA Championship, with the Ivy title going to Princeton.
Still, there was ample evidence of Whitton's ability to face tough competition. She went up against eventual 2002 NCAA champion California as a sophomore and went three-for-six. In her only chance to play in the NCAA championship, as a freshman, she went three-for-seven with two doubles and a home run.
That Ivy runner-up 2002 team went 31-10 and won the ECAC tournament. Whitton was named Ivy League Player of the Year. She was also four-time first team All-Ivy and won the Paget Award, given to the Harvard senior who has contributed the most to women's athletics.
Whitton entered Harvard at a time when the school was one year removed from its first-ever Ivy championship. The Crimson won again her freshman year and shared the title her sophomore year. Whitton attributes this success to others, saying "I had great players around me, we meshed really well together. In particular Mairead McKendry and Sarah Koppel had a huge impact on my success and the success of the team."
Growing up in Southern California, Harvard wasn't a school Whitton considered until coach Jenny Allard phoned. Then on her recruiting trip she stayed with Sarah Koppel and the die was cast. Whitton recalls "we became instant friends. We played together for three years and in June I will be a bridesmaid in her wedding and in October she will be a bridesmaid in my wedding."
Once at Harvard, Whitton approached the challenge of balancing athletics and academics by fashioning a tight schedule. She says, "I feel that softball actually helped me become a better student because it gave me structure so I had to get things done within a specific time frame. During my freshman year, I had to take two finals during NCAA regionals. I took a final in my uniform at the hotel with a proctor and then got on a bus to play Northwestern."
Upon graduation Whitton became a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, D.C. Just last week she was promoted to Associate.
She consults for federal agencies, helping them implement information technology systems and become more efficient. Though she is happy consulting, she is considering going back to business school.
The only softball she plays today is slow pitch for her company's softball league, but she adds, "I heard a rumor that Harvard has a slow-pitch team in the college alumni league in D.C. so I'm hoping to join the team."
Whitton goes to career fairs in the Washington, D.C., area to tell students about her experience at Harvard. That experience was clearly a positive one. "I think my undergraduate years helped me grow into the person I am today," she says. "I was able to learn more about the world and myself. I was challenged to think about things I had never considered."
"I strongly believe in the Ivy league values around athletics. Ivy sports are a great experience, they make school more interesting. I can't imagine not doing it. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
— Suzanne Eschenbach