Whap! Lovieanne Jung smacked the lime-green softball into left field.

Bam! Jung, second baseman for the U.S. Olympic women's softball team, smashed another line drive into the outfield.

"Man, she's just ripping them!" said Joshua Mandel, standing along the left field line eyeing the action through sunglasses while sipping a beer out of a bottle in a brown paper bag.

Mandel, 38, a Manhattan building contractor with a shaved head and goatee, came to Central Park to play Frisbee last Saturday and found, to his amazement and delight, that an Olympic softball team was practicing there. He stood watching, barefoot and awestruck.

"You hear the sound off those bats -- Pow! Pow! every frickin' time!" he said. "They're a machine -- an incredibly well-crafted machine." He smiled. "They're also a lot more attractive than they look on TV. Number 20 looks totally amazing! Number 8 is a little young but she's amazing, too."

Suddenly a ball ripped down the foul line, sending Mandel and the other spectators scattering.

"Hey," somebody yelled in a voice that sounded like the official foghorn of the Bronx, "a little bit more to the southwest, willya?"

The Olympians came to Central Park while visiting New York for the 2004 Olympic Media Summit -- a four-day marathon talkfest where 105 Olympic athletes sat for interviews with a mob of more than 400 reporters, photographers and TV crews in a windowless hotel ballroom in Times Square, with the air conditioning cranked up to meat-locker level to keep the media alert.

The summit gave reporters an opportunity to assess the Olympians' ability to give good quote. Before the Olympics begin in Athens in August, sportswriters need to rate these athletes on the nonexistent but all-important Carlton-King Index, which measures quotability. In this index, Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton, who went years without uttering a word to reporters, would rate a zero, while boxing promoter Don King, who can fill a reporter's notebook with world-class balderdash without even pausing to inhale, would rate a perfect 10. Your average jock, discoursing on the need to give 110 percent and take it one day at a time, would come in at about 4.

Before the summit began, reporters skimmed the massive official media guide for potential Carlton-King prospects, searching for signs of zaniness, flakiness and logorrhea.

They found gems like this one, about soccer player Kate Markgarf of Bloomfield Hills, Mich: "In her free time, she enjoys indulging her habit of searching for the perfect ottoman."

And this, about long jumper Savante Stringfellow, the pride of Jackson, Miss.: "Stringfellow has two Superman tattoos, a big 'S' on his left bicep and a whole picture of Superman on his left leg."

And this, about gymnast Carly Patterson of Dallas: "The 4{prime}6{Prime} Patterson says that after her successful gymnastics career, she wants to help others as a dental hygienist."

At the summit, the athletes climbed on little platforms and sat in director's chairs while a scrum of reporters brandishing tape recorders bellowed questions. It's not the ideal mode of dialogue, but it did succeed in identifying athletes with high Carlton-King ratings.

Veteran beach volleyball player Stacy Sykora, 27, earned at least an 8 on the Carlton-King Index for a heartfelt monologue on her love of McDonald's. "At the last Olympics, I ate it breakfast, lunch and dinner every day," she said. "Internationally, I usually get a Big Mac and a six-piece Chicken McNugget. In the United States, I get two double cheeseburgers."

Sykora, who hails from Burleson, Tex., dreams of signing a contract to endorse Mickey D's. "I don't even want money," she says. "I just want to eat for free."

At one point, Sykora uttered a line that sounded like one of Yogi Berra's zen aphorisms. "I always try to think really positively," she said, "and that might be my downfall."

Another beach volleyball player, Jeff Nygaard of Madison, Wis., scored at least a 9 on the Carlton-King scale. Nygaard, 32, played on the Olympic indoor volleyball team in 1996 and 2000 but this year he jumped to beach ball because, he says, it's more fun.

Nygaard is a great comic raconteur. He told a funny story about nearly setting off a land mine when he played pro volleyball in Croatia during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And he told a funnier story about how he talked his brother, a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, out of buying an engagement ring with Packers quarterback Bret Favre's number on the diamond -- only to have his brother's fiancee complain that a Favre-themed engagement ring was exactly what she wanted.

Nygaard also explained why the media guide mentioned his fondness for singing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" in a karaoke bar. "It's my song," he said. "It's me. It's what I give to the world."

Breaux Greer, 28, a javelin thrower from Ouachita Parish, La., scored at least an 8.5 on the Carlton-King scale. With shaggy blond hair hanging past his ears and a little goatee, he looks like a rocker -- and he is. He sings in a band called Former Track Star, although he plans to change the name to I Felt a Red Letter in homage to the novel "The Scarlet Letter." Among the utterly obscure band's songs is "Rage," Greer's ode to screaming anger.

"We're not mainstream," he explains. "We're kinda like Heavy Alternative. I do a lot of yelling and stuff. You kinda have to get used to it."

Reporters swarmed around star softball pitcher Jennie Finch, but that was not based solely on her quotability. She's a gorgeous 23-year-old blonde from La Mirada, Calif., who looks like a supermodel. But she can talk and she deserves at least a 7.5 on the Carlton-King scale just for her Jessica Simpson-style raps about her fiance, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Casey Daigle:

"He saw me pitch and he was in the hair salon talking about me and right next to him was my hairstylist, who said, 'She's coming in next week.' It's pretty crazy. God definitely had a plan. . . . He proposed to me on the field. He blindfolded me and took me out on the mound and took off the blindfold and said, 'You were the queen of the diamond for four years, now I want you to be the queen of my heart.' "

At the summit, the U.S. Olympic Committee released the long-awaited list of all the official partners, sponsors and suppliers of the team. For those of you scoring at home:

Budweiser is the "Official Malt Beverage Partner of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team." Sears is the "Official Large Home Appliance Supplier of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team." And Nu Skin is the "Official Skin Care and Hair Products/Personal Fragrances/Color Cosmetics and Toiletries Sponsor of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team."

Which raises the question: Who will be the "Official Facial Tissue, Bathroom Tissue and Paper Towel Supplier of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team"?

The answer is: Kleenex. And the folks at Kleenex have also announced a new program called "Kleenex Moments," which will "capture and chronicle the most emotional moments" of the 2004 games -- you know, the kind of moments that make you reach for a Kleenex.

Meanwhile, back in Central Park, Jason Mandel experienced his own Kleenex Moment when Finch strolled to the plate to take her cuts.

"Ahhhh, is this Jennie coming to bat?" he said, smiling lasciviously. "Yum, yum, yum."

He watched as she stepped up and smacked a hot line drive into the gap in left-center outfield.

"Frozen rope!" he said. "She's amazing!"

She hit another line drive. Then another.

"It's kind of bizarre, but I feel a lot of patriotism," he said. "Don't get me going on that [expletive] in the White House -- but this is a true sense of patriotism. This" -- he nodded toward the field -- "is really the best of what we have to offer."

At the Olympic Media Summit in New York on Sunday: Swimmers Gary Hall and Aaron Peirsol, top, and Amanda Beard and Lindsay Benko. Breaux Greer can hurl javelin and quote with equally impressive results.