Border Battle falls short for real softball fans

Written by Bob on July 18th, 2009


This is how the men’s fastpitch softball game is played with pitching, defense, and timely hitting. And no outlandish 30-23 scores.
Photos By Bob Otto / Freelance Writer & Photographer

YUCAIPA, CA – When I opened the sports page this morning my eyes opened wide and my anticipation soared. Until I realized what version of the men’s softball game would be showcased on TV today.

Under the heading of SOFTBALL were three listings: Women’s World Cup, Canada vs. U.S. at 10 a.m. followed by Men’s slow pitch, Canada vs. U.S. at 1 p.m., and finally Women’s World Cup, Japan vs. U.S. At 5 p.m.

All scheduled on ESPN.

I thought that surely the listing for the men’s game must be a programming error, that it should have read: Men’s International Softball Federation fast pitch, Canada vs. U.S.

So I logged on ESPN’s website to check, and sure enough the day’s featured softball game was indeed slow pitch and a game billed as, “The Border Battle; Men’s Slow Pitch Softball, Canada vs. U.S.”

Watching The Big Game
Although disappointed that an ISF game (strictly men’s fastpitch) wouldn’t be televised, I resolved to watch at least a few innings of the heralded contest between Canada and the U.S. I haven’t watched slow pitch played at the highest “elite” level – as the game announcers proclaimed – so I wanted to find out first hand how good these Border Battle teams actually were.

My impression? The players are huge, they hit the ball a long way, and lots of runs are scored. Probably no secret there.

But after seeing the U.S. hit 10 home runs, and I believe Canada whacked eight, in the, 30-23, slugfest won by the U.S. by virtue of a 17-run (no misprint) fourth inning, I grew bored.

Lots Of Runs
But I suppose there are fans who come to the ballpark and want to see the ball hit hard and lots of runs scored. However for those fans that relish the pitcher vs. batter duel, in slow pitch it simply doesn’t exist.

The slow pitch pitcher tosses the ball in an arc between six and 10 feet and then backs up to field his position, hoping the batter hits the ball hard (they all hit the ball hard) at a fielder.

In fastpitch the pitcher vs batter duel is one of the most exciting aspects of the sport – just as it is in baseball.

I mentioned big men? The players are all big, muscular, and strong. So where in the slow pitch game does the little guy fit in? He doesn’t. So that rules out the need for talented and speedy slappers. Unless of course they can slap the ball over the fence. And slow pitch has little need for slick fielding shortstops and second basemen who can turn the double play.

And in slow pitch, a team must strategically time its home runs. Hit over 10 and the rest are nothing but long outs. Solo home runs? Bad, oh so bad. Hitters want to avoid those because they’re considered wasted if the bases are empty.

Shameful Home Runs
I saw a couple of U.S. players who actually hung and shook their heads in disgust as they trotted around the bases after hitting solo home runs. Imagine feeling bad about hitting a home run.

And the hit and run? In fastpitch, a great strategy. But in slow pitch it has no place. The big guys just simply try to crush the ball.

The stolen base? In slow pitch, no. In fastpitch an exciting and again strategic play that often times wins ball games.

Near the end of the game the camera panned to a young girl in the stands holding a poster that read, “Team USA (I’m) a pitcher in training.” Sorry little girl, but you’re waving your sign at the wrong ball game.

Will I tune in for the next Border Battle? Not anytime soon, unless of course it’s a game featuring the U.S. and Canada’s very best men’s softball players.

As in men’s FASTPITCH softball.

Check out the International Softball Federation World Men’s Fastpitch Softball Championship

Follow Al Doran’s play-by-play reports of ISF games

10 Comments so far ↓

  1. David says:

    So I take it you’ve never seen a Major Utrip softball game played?? Playing fastpitch softball is about as boring as watching paint dry!!!
    I mean what fun is it to see a pitcher dominate a game, when your pitching so close to the batter your basically dancing partners????
    I’ve seen way too many mens and womens fastpitch games that go 9+ innings without a score, or to see a team fluke a homerun on a kiddie field that is generally a can of corn any other time.
    As for the guys being big?? yea they are big, so what? they can also field any position.. And the defense is top notch at the Major levels. turning double plays is basically second hand when it comes to them.
    And there are plenty of little guys who play Major softball, IE Scott Kirby is one of them. Do some simple research before you go n spout off about something you dont know (anything) about!
    Have you even seen a Major softball tournament? look up the 2009 Dudley Tournament. Or just look up Resmondo or Dan Smith, Johnny Blaze.

  2. Bob says:

    Thanks for the reply, now go see a real softball game. By the way, players who generally can’t hit fastpitch settle for slowpitch. Have fun.

  3. Timmy T says:

    Bob,
    If you would of actually payed attention to the game you would of noticed the announcers mentioning that most of those Slow-pitch players are former Minor League baseball players.

    You hear that? They actually played real baseball as well, not the womens version of softball that is for wannabes and never coulds.

  4. Bob says:

    Yes, I heard the announcers say some had played minor league ball. Good athletes, I’m sure. Now if you actually read what I wrote, I gave my opinion on which side of the sport I believe to be the best and why, namely fastpitch. (And I hope that ESPN will consider televising the next International Softball Federation World Championship.) You mention that the women’s version of softball, “is for wannabes and never coulds.” Did you happen to watch the USA women’s game preceding the slow pitch game? Or the women’s game that followed the slow pitch game? As a reporter, I’ve covered both high school, college and the women’s USA team when it’s trained at the national training center in Chula Vista. These girls and women are highly skilled athletes, not wannabes and never coulds. And I’ve covered men’s fastpitch as well at the International Softball Congress World Tournament. Many of these ball players come from professional baseball as well. In sport as with many things, we all have our preferences. I happen to have made mine known, as you have as well. Now let’s go to our separate softball diamonds and play it either slow or fast.

  5. Shawn says:

    There are no batter pitcher battles, but until you play something like this, as an infielder, you can never understand how fast those ball are coming at you. There is no way any fastball player can hit the ball that hard. Fastball can be a fun game, but seeing it at a high level, how much fun is a 2-1 game with 10 strikeouts. There are fielders that don’t see a ball for games at a time. In slowpitch, every batter puts the ball in play, and plays have to be made on every one of these. And there are fast players. Outfielders have to cover a bigger field than fastball players, 310 foot fences with 3 outfielders and every ball in play. Infielders have fractions of a second to pick up the ball, make the play, and throw the ball. Yes there are double plays turned, probably as many or more than in fastball. Infielders picking up the ball clean have way more time to turn the play as there is no leading off. And everyone has to be able to hit as there is no bunting allowed.

  6. Bob says:

    Because of the technology in bats and balls, the fastpitch game has changed with resulting higher scores. If you check out the recently completed International Softball Federation World Championships won by Australia, 5-0, over New Zealand, you’ll see that the pitchers aren’t dominating the batters as they once did. And as for boring, the games drew crowds in the 5,000 to 7,000 range.

  7. Bob says:

    Good argument in defense of your sport. You made some strong point. Thanks.

  8. jd says:

    Hey guys, I played fastpitch from 69-75 and played with and against some of the top players in the country. Faced pitchers throwing 90+ out of their hand. I didn’t hit home runs but did hit over 300. I’ve played slowpitch since 76 and still do at age 61. I have never hit a home run in slowpitch. I played A to E when I was younger and up to Major Plus in senior ball. There are top players in both games and to play the game well, you can’t be just average.

  9. Ryan Wood says:

    Bob,

    Just wanted to let you know that I know your thread is 2 years old. I was on the 2010 Team Canada Border Battle Team.

    I have played both fastpitch and slow pitch at the highest level.

    In 2001 i was on the Canadian Junior National Fastpitch team that won a bronze medal in the worlds.

    I’m 5’10 180 lbs and am the slick defensive guy and slap hitter you mentioned were not included in the slowpitch game.

    I would love to tell you both sports have their pros and cons but playing slow pitch at the highest level is not easy.

    Thanks for taking the time to write about the sports.

    Ryan Wood

  10. I guess it’s just a difference in what are you looking for… Fun (Slowpitch) or COMPETITION (Fastpitch).

    Not all of us could make it as a professional baseball player. But the absolute best option to keep your COMPETITIVE sports career alive is Men’s Fastpitch… There is no other challenge like it for the rest of us (you won’t see us smiling and giggling the whole game on a fastpitch field). And if you really feel that competitive fire when you play a long-ball launching game of slowpitch, you never had it in the first place.

    Mike (K-Club Men’s Fastpitch WA)

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