Jon Gwizdala, personifying the golden opportunities in American male fastpitch

Written by Bob on March 10th, 2014

gwizdalaJonNAFA55lr Jon Gwizdala pitching for Northwest Implement of Maryville, Missouri in the 2013 NAFA World Series, 23-Under division, in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo By BOB OTTO

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – The naysayers will tell you, “there’s no opportunity in American male fastpitch softball. You’re just wasting your time on a dying sport. The girls own the sport now.”

But if you talk to 22-year-old Jon Gwizdala, he’ll challenge all that negative garbage. In fact, he’ll tell you of all the golden opportunities he has had in his 15 years of pitching when he first started windmilling a softball at age seven.

Remember now, Jon is just 22. But already he’s played in the ISC World Tournament, ASA national tournaments, and in the NAFA World Series.

Gwizdala and the teams he’s pitched for have won ASA national youth and young men’s titles, a NAFA World Series, and he has been named an ASA All-American and NAFA All-World, along with winning a home run title.

Opportunities in American boys and men’s fastpitch? Of the golden variety.

Especially for aspiring pitchers, with the work ethic and the willingness to put in hours of practice to become proficient in the circle.

    BASEBALL’S GOOD, BUT FASTPITCH IS BETTER

Gwizdala played high school and college baseball. He was club president at Delta Junior College and captain of the varsity team during the 2010-2011 season. Baseball is a sport he grew up with, a sport he enjoys playing. But in comparison to fastpitch, well, there is no comparison.

“My true passion will always be for my first love, and that is fastpitch softball,” he said.

    IT’S IN THE GENES

He most likely inherited his passion for fastpitch. His father, Ron Gwizdala, his older brother Ryan, his uncle Tom Stasik and some of his cousins all played fastpitch, with his dad and uncle playing, managing and taking leadership roles.

“They introduced me to the sport and I began pitching on the sidelines when I was seven during my brother’s games,” he said. “My first game appearance was at age eight in the ASA 10-Under National Tournament, and I was the batboy for the 16-Under Zak’s Candy Haus.”

On the family side, he played for his dad’s team, Zak’s Candy Haus, which later became Frankenmuth Driving School. Then in 2011, the Duncan Outlaws of Indiana asked him to pitch in the ISC World Tournament.

    GREAT MEMORIES

“I only threw a few innings, but I’ll never forget that tournament,” Gwizdala said. But the memories he’s building up even get better. For the following year, the Midland Explorers put him on their roster for the ISC World Tournament in Midland.

“It was right here in my back yard,” he said. “I was the third pitching option and never saw the field, but playing for the home town team I grew up watching will be a great memory.”

Michigan, like most parts of the country, has seen a drop off in the sport. But hope’s candle still burns bright with young men like Gwizdala making the commitment to become pitchers.

And he’s not the only young pitcher in Michigan turning heads and making a name for himself.

    YOUNG, TALENTED MICHIGAN HURLERS

He lists several rising stars, ranging in age from 20-year-old Zack Lach to Tyler Kelly, 26.

“Zack is becoming one of the better pitchers in my area of the state,” Gwizdala said. “And eventually he will be competitive against any team in the state and country.”

He goes on to say that Kelly is one of Michigan’s top pitchers and Gregory Heath, 23, and Dylan Cuddahee, also in his early 20s, are showing great potential, with Cuddahee starting his own team.

The 2014 season is fast approaching and Gwizdala will be in the circle for more than one team over the summer, but his primary team is Up To Date Painting of Millington.

    THE THUMB AND MIDLAND, STRONG LEAGUES

Up To Date Painting will be playing in both the Thumb Travel League and the Midland league, two of the strongest leagues in Michigan.

But there’s more on his plate than just pitching and playing DH and outfield when his bat is needed in the lineup.

    BAY CITY MEMORIAL HONORING SPECIAL UMPIRE

He’s also organizing a tournament – the Bay City Memorial Day Tournament, May 23-25. The tournament fell by the wayside last year and he has resolved to revive it.

“Bay City used to be a hotbed of fastpitch,” he said. “There were several teams that were disappointed, as I was, in the lack of a tournament last year. The hope is to get a competitive tournament that will help boost local interest in the game.”

The tournament is wide open, welcoming Open to ASA Class C caliber teams.

He’s excited about the prospects, saying that some USA Softball national team players as well as developing young C level pitchers and players will battle for bragging rights and the championship.

The entry fee is $400, which includes individual and team awards, and the tournament will honor a very special fastpitch man: umpire Ted Germain.

“We are going to pay tribute to a great local fastpitch man who lost his fight with cancer this winter,” Gwizdala said. “Many people are excited about the tournament coming back, and many local umpires are happy for Teddy to be honored.”

Golden opportunities in American male fastpitch?

Look no further than pitcher Jon Gwizdala for living proof.

4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Ted Lemkuhl says:

    Greg Heath and Dylan Cuddahee are both average, at best. There’s plenty of good young talent out there, though.

  2. Bob says:

    There’s a place for all levels of talent in fastpitch. And I heard that Dylan has started his own team, which is very commendable for a young player.

  3. Jon Gwizdala says:

    Ted,
    These guys are still young, and have not been playing that long. A few more years of throwing, and who knows where they will be. They do show potential, and puting down young pitchers is not going to help bring people to this game, or help keep them around working and developing.

  4. Michael rivera says:

    Wow no doubt ! You f pitchers just need guidance!

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