When I was 12-years-old I joined my first organized sport. It was slow pitch softball and I have learned a lot in my 30 years of playing since then. Back then there were no organized sports for girls like we have today. In 1972, the local recreation department decided to form a slow-pitch softball league for young girls. Right down the road there was the East Bay Little League baseball park for the guys, so they called our new league the East Bay Leaguerettes.
I was a tomboy, so right away I knew I wanted to play in this league. The local recreation director coached the team from my neighborhood. At our first practice she had everyone go to the position they would like to play. I’m a shy person, so I went to where no one was at – to the outfield. Everyone wanted to play the infield or pitch. When the pitchers started trying out no one could toss the ball across the plate. The coach, knowing I was shy, called me in to give it a try. She called me a natural, but I still needed coaching. After all, when we first started to play catch I wanted to put the glove on my right hand even though I am right handed!
My coach was a slow-pitch softball pitcher on an adult team. Because I hung out at the park after school where she worked, she was able to take me under her wing and give me some drills and pointers on how to become a better pitcher. First I had to learn how to put a good arc on the ball. To do this she suggested that someone stand a few feet in front of home plate and I toss the ball over their head. Luckily I had a brother and a couple of neighborhood friends who were willing to practice with me in my backyard. One would stand in front of the plate and the other would catch behind them. We’d have to figure out by trial and error how far to stand in front of the plate in order for the ball to arc over their head and fall into the waiting glove behind them. Another drill she gave me to learn how to “target” the plate was to have two people stand on either side of the plate with their toes almost touching the plate, and then toss the ball between them to a catcher. If you want to get real creative add the person standing in front of the plate. Once you think you have all this mastered, put a bucket behind the plate and try to toss the ball into the bucket. Move the bucket to the left side of the plate, to the right side of the plate and also straight behind the back corner of the plate.
As I got older, I became more creative on my own. I’d paint the outside of the plate by hitting the edges. All you have to do is stand on the far left or far right side of the rubber and throw the ball straight. It helps to have a catcher who can read what you intend to do. My catcher knew what I was planning to throw according to where I stood on the rubber. Of course, a good batter would pick up on that.
My teammates used to tell me that I threw a “curve ball.” To this day, I have yet to figure out how that is done in slow pitch softball. What I did do though was to stand on the far right side of the pitching rubber and aim for the far left side of the plate. Or do vice-versa. Stand on the far left side of the pitching rubber and aim for the far right side of the plate. That may look like a curve to the batter. My mentor could throw a knuckle ball and no matter how hard you hit it, that ball just died. I never learned how to throw the knuckle ball.