Angie Mentink was already a trailblazer, so it’s only fitting she played for the Silver Bullets, the professional women’s baseball team that played around the country from 1994-97.
In high school, she played football, and in college, she helped start the Washington softball program, becoming the team’s first big star.
But the dream for Mentink, known as Angie Marzetta as a Husky, was to play pro baseball. When the Colorado Silver Bullets started 25 years ago, her dream was obtainable.
Mentink played two seasons for the Silver Bullets, two wonderful years that helped shape her life and have been invaluable in her career as a longtime anchor at Root Sports Northwest, co-anchor of the Mariners pregame and postgame shows and host of “Mariners All Access.”
Mentink, a rare female sports studio host, is aware that she is a role model for young girls and takes that responsibility seriously.
But she didn’t grow up intending being a trailblazer. It happened by doing what she liked.
Pursuing a dream
Mentink, 46, grew up a Navy brat, in a family with three generations of Naval Academy graduates.
As a freshman at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, California, she was manager of the “B” football team. She grew tired of watching, and a year later she played, as a linebacker and wingback.
“I started on special teams and I think I started two games on defense,” Mentink said.
She stood out in softball, earning a scholarship to Central Arizona College, a two-year college, where she switched to hitting left-handed, giving her a quicker start to first base. Once on base, the speedy Mentink terrorized the opposition with her base-stealing prowess.
Central Arizona won two national titles with Mentink, giving the team five straight.
She helped start Washington’s team from scratch.
“(UW coach) Teresa Wilson said, ‘Come set the bar, come set the standards.’ That was right up my alley.”
Mentink, a center fielder, set standards that haven’t been topped. Her .472 batting average as a junior in 1994 is best in school history, as is her career .429 batting average. Her 59 stolen bases (in 63 attempts) as a junior is still a record too.
In 2001, she became the first Husky softball player inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame.
“You’re making my cheeks blush,” said Mentink, not one to brag or boast, when her records are brought up. “But it’s awesome.”
Mentink was selected as an alternate for the 1996 U.S. Olympic softball team. But as a senior at UW in 1995, she saw Phil Niekro, the manager of the Silver Bullets, talking on TV about the new professional women’s baseball team that would play against men.
That changed her course.
“I thought, ‘This is me,’ ” she said. “But I had to make a decision, ‘Do I play professional baseball, which is what I dreamed about my entire life, or stay with the Olympic team?’ To me, it was a no-brainer. I never dreamed of being an Olympic softball player.”
Life as a pro
After making it through extensive tryouts, Mentink played two seasons for the Silver Bullets. She made $20,000 and all the Coors Light she could drink her first season. She got a $5,000 raise her second year, and made sure the unlimited beer remained part of the deal.
They traveled the country, playing semipro and amateur All-Star teams, sometimes at big stadiums like Shea Stadium in New York and the Kingdome in Seattle.
They attracted attention everywhere, and some crowds topped 30,000.
“Angie’s got a lot to learn, but she brings a little spunk to the team,” Niekro, the Silver Bullets manager, told The Seattle Times in 1995. “That’s something we’ve been lacking.”
Said Mentink: “I don’t think the modern me would like the 21-year-old me very much. I was so reckless and so edgy, but those things allowed me to do the things that I was doing.”
Mentink thoroughly enjoyed the barnstorming life, and the fame and responsibility that came with it.
“It dawns on you when it’s not just little girls who you are signing autographs for — just changing the opinion of what women are capable of doing and seeing us in a different light,” Mentink said.
Mentink started in 40 games her first season, second most on the team. She hit .221, third best on the team. She was the first Silver Bullet with four hits in a game, not that she was impressed.
“I got four hits all the time in college,” she said.
Mentink became close with Niekro, a Hall of Fame pitcher. Niekro called her “Spaghetti,” even introducing her that way at events.
The Silver Bullets did many public appearances, Mentink said, “and some women objected to going to bars, so they would end up at a frozen-food section of a supermarket, whereas I and a couple other gals, were always too happy to go to a bar.
“Of course, Phil was going to attend the ones in the bar. So he and I spent a lot of time together. We have bar tricks to last me the rest of my life. Really important life skills.”
Mentink said the team was full of diverse and strong personalities.
“Johnny Grubb, our hitting coach, that poor man,” she said. “The things he heard coming out of young women’s mouths that he thought he would never hear.”
The Silver Bullets were 11-33 in Mentink’s first season, and 18-34 the next year, when she hit .241. She did not play in 1997, the team’s final season, after getting married.
“It was spectacular; I was living my dream,” she said of playing for the Silver Bullets. “So many great memories and great times, but also amazing failures. You’re used to batting in the high .400s and now you’re batting .220. That’s harsh.”
Happy ever after
Mentink was an assistant softball coach for UW in 1997 before moving into broadcasting. She and husband Jarrett Mentink, a Seattle Pacific University professor and former high school and college basketball coach, have two boys, 14 and 12.
She doesn’t talk much about her playing days to her kids, but they know what mom accomplished, thanks to dad.
Mentink is reluctant to talk about her achievements, but was very open about her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017. She said she remains cancer free.
“That is still so weird to me,” Mentink said of the cancer. “I was a person who didn’t get sick or injured.”
Mentink didn’t set out to be a trailblazer but is fine being one, and wishes women still had a choice between softball and baseball. She stays in contact with some of her Silver Bullet teammates and can still throw a baseball, surprising Mariner players who don’t know her history.
“When I go throw with a player, it’s like, ‘Oh, OK. You can throw,’ ” she said. “So they might not be as patronizing with the information they give me.”
Because like them, she’s lived the life.