Behind The Scenes

ESPN softball analyst, Olympic great Michele Smith fans Charles Barkley

Oklahoma City has been a hotbed of sports activity between the Women’s College World Series and the NBA Western Conference Finals this week.

Wednesday, those worlds collided.

The result: Turner’s NBA analyst Charles Barkley had to back up his on-air claim that “no girl could strike me out.”

He was, after all, staying at the same hotel as an Olympic gold medalist known for a pitch that will make your head spin.

“We both played for Team USA in the 1996 Olympics,” said ESPN softball analyst Michele Smith in reference to Barkley.

In other words, Chuck should have known better.

With both ESPN and Turner production teams crossing paths in the hotel lobby, it didn’t take long for the smack talk to erupt and a competition born. After all, it is the 40th anniversary of Title IX (not to mention the 20th anniversary of Barkley’s Dream Team).

Barkley was given a handicap — six strikes — against Smith. An indoor facility was found and a challenge was accepted.

Smith wound-up.

“It was the largest strike zone I’ve ever thrown against!” she said.

Barkley struck out.

In the spirit of a friendly game, Smith did lob him one easy pitch at the end. After all, Barkley had claimed “there was a train coming” and everyone better get off the tracks.

Cameras were rolling, producers were waiting.

Barkley swung, hit and annihilated .. .a grapefruit. Juice splattered as what should have been a softball exploded on the hitter and catcher.

Lessons learned? Before you make claims that will end up playing on SportsCenter and NBA pre-game shows, ask the hotel concierge: “Is Michele Smith in the building?”

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