Fastpitch softball IS America
At last weekend’s tournament I observed a scene that to me captures the heart and soul of what makes fastpitch softball such a great sport. It was a typical thing, really. A girl on our team was having a little trouble hitting, and her father was talking to her offering his best advice on how to break out of the slump.
Nothing remarkable there, except for one thing: the dad, who is from India, probably has never played baseball or softball in his life. Yet there he was trying to help his daughter with something that is vitally important to her.
I couldn’t hear what he was telling her so I don’t know whether the advice was good or bad. That’s not the point. The point is that it was a Norman Rockwell moment, only with faces Norman Rockwell never thought to use.
Fastpitch softball is as all-American as it gets. Most sports have certain requirements for body types or athleticism to be successful at all but the most basic levels. In basketball and volleyball it really helps to be tall. Football is best played by those with sturdier builds. Soccer requires a combination of endurance and speed above normal levels. The list goes on.
But in fastpitch softball there’s a place for both the small and speedy and the large and strong. You can overcome your athletic weaknesses by maximing your strengths. If you’re not too strong but you’re fast you can bunt or slap. If you’re small and slow you can work on your hitting technique to punch the ball through the infield to give you more time. If you’re big and really slow, you can shoot for the fences.
Yes, being athletic and in great shape is an asset, especially at the upper levels. But not being the greatest athlete, or a certain height, or a certain body type, is not as much of a limitation as it is in other sports.
Softball also drives a kind of camaraderie between kids and parents. When I asked for volunteers to pitch some batting practice with wiffle balls, the dad I described earlier was one of them. He was only too happy to help the girls prepare for their game, and he’d certainly watched enough games and warm-ups to know what to do despite never having played himself. The parents enjoyed participating, and the girls appreciated the help. We were able to warm up efficiently and come out with the bats roaring.
The girl I described at the beginning of this post was about 10 years old when she first started playing. In fact, we talked about that this weekend. Her mom worked with a guy who was involved in our organization, and she mentioned she was looking for something athletic for her daughter to do. He suggested bringing her to our tryouts and she did. The girl told me she had no idea what a softball was or how the game was played, but once she got started she got hooked. She started out playing a few innings here or there in right field, and gradually got the hang of it.
As she has continued she has worked on her game and is now an excellent first baseman. She is not only sure-handed but also has great awareness of where the runners are on the field. In fact, she has been involved in several double plays for us this season that ended with the last out at home off her throw.
America has always been a country that is more concerned with what you can contribute than where you came from or what natural gifts you have. Fastpitch softball matches up with that ideal very well.