LEXINGTON, IL – Some 30 years a go, Paul Algar journeyed from his New Zealand homeland for the fastball-playing shores of the United States. Just 17 at the time in 1982, he was fast making a name for himself as one of the best young pitchers in the world.
But let’s back up for a moment.
Before Paul came along, his older brother Loren was already an established pitcher, and his dad, Ray, was a pretty fair first baseman on the ball diamonds of Wellington and Melrose.
Father and brother had set a path that young Paul eagerly followed. And one that ultimately landed him a seat in the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame.
“Watching my brother pitch, I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” said Algar, 47, adding that Loren is 11 years older. “I would practice on the sidelines while Loren pitched.”
And Paul practiced and practiced, and practiced some more, says his dad, Ray.
“Ever since he was a kid, he practiced hard by himself,” Ray Algar said. “He would gather a whole bunch of balls and throw at targets on a wall. He would spend two to three hours and then come home for a soft drink and then back to his pitching.”
For several years, Ray traveled to the U.S. to watch his sons play on some of America’s finest teams. He followed Loren and Paul’s exploits from California to Florida and throughout the Midwest.
“I’ve been to see them about 15 times,” Ray said, “and I’ve gone to the ASA and ISC (national tournaments and world tournaments, respectively). I would spend five to six weeks sometimes. I love America. It’s a lovely place to live.”
While he enjoyed watching his sons play fastball abroad, he admits that he misses them since the U.S. has claimed Paul as a son, while Loren lives in Australia and is the men’s national team pitching coach.
For Paul, coming to the U.S. as a teenager opened up a whole new world of fastball adventures. He’s played for some of the finest teams ever assembled in the history of the sport.
Some of those teams include the Farm Tavern of Madison, WI; Green Bay All-Car; New York Heflin Builders; Hubbard Construction (Calif.); Aurora All-Steel, and Tommy’s Angels of Oshkosh, WI.
Let’s learn a little more about Paul, who will be inducted into the 2012 Class of ISC Hall of Famers.
Q: So how did it go when you came to the U.S. in 1982?
A: I was still learning and played against some pretty outstanding teams. I threw well, but got my butt kicked too. There were some great pitchers then – Paul Magan, Chuck D’Arcy, Steve Schultz, Mike White, “Z” (Darren Zack)…
Q: As a youngster, you received some pretty sound advice from one of fastball’s all-time great pitchers. Tell us about that.
A: I was 16 and pitching in Wellington and Kevin Herlihy was watching. I had been copying my brother’s style. We talked and Herlihy said, ‘your brother is a wonderful pitcher, but I think you should develop your own style that you’re comfortable with.’
“That set me up to throw my own way and have my own identity. I experimented with different grips, and I was more explosive off the rubber early, but smoother later.”
Q: You study other pitchers, how so?
A: I would watch Whitey (Mike White) and he always landed in the same spot, and did everything the same. His motion is so easy, yet he threw so hard. I still watch other pitchers pitch. He and Darren, I can watch them pitch all day long.
Q: 2011 didn’t turn out so well, what happened?
A: I started the season pretty good, but pulled a groan when my cleat slipped on the rubber at the ASA (Major National Tournament) and wasn’t effective (at the ISC World Tournament). It was disappointing.
Q: How does it feel to be inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame?
A: To be included with high-class guys that I idolized is so humbling. I thought, ‘is it really happening?’ To be associated with this group is amazing.
Q: Now that you’re headed for the Hall of Fame, does that mean you’re retiring?
A: Mark Sorenson (Hall of Fame, 2010) called and congratulated me. He asked me, ‘what are you going to do now?’ I don’t think I can give it up that easily. I still have that fire. It’s still challenging.
Q: You’ve pitched for some great teams, tell us about some of your fondest memories.
A: Pitching for the Farm for 10 years and winning ISC World Tournament in 1997 and ’99, and two ASA championships with the Farm. 1997 in Victoria (BC, Canada) was such a great team effort. Most of the team’s goal was to win for Rod (Peterson). He went so long and came so close before. 1999 was special too.
Todd Martin got injured in the fourth inning against Midland, and I finished and threw the next three games. It was a pleasure playing for Rod and I wanted to do well for him.
Q: Now that your one of the older pitchers left in the sport, how do you prepare for the coming season?
A: After every season, I get into the gym and get ready for next year. I lift and (work on) the speed bag and punching bag. I think I have a good work ethic; it’s a Kiwi trait. If I didn’t work out, I would be done. It prolongs careers.
Q: You’ve thrown that well-know rise ball of yours against some pretty good hitters, who are a few that give you the most trouble?
A: There are so many, but Mark Sorenson and Shawn Rychcik are right up there in my book – and Todd Budke. They really make you concentrate. You can’t make a mistake. The three of them have hit my pitches, and you go, ‘how did you hit that?’ It’s like I told them what’s coming.
Q: And managers?
A: Russ Boice (ISC Hall of Fame manager, 1996, deceased) was the best manager I played for. He brought something out of you that you didn’t think you had.
“He made you believe in yourself. He made you think; he was so good at it.”
Q: What has the sport both taught you and given you?
A: Play hard between the lines, but be the same person off the field as on, and not have a big ego. When I’m pitching, I love it when thousands are watching; it helps me focus more. I (enjoy) having people come up to me at tournaments and talk. It’s such a good time.
Q: What advice would you give to young pitchers just starting out?
A: Work on your mechanics. Get the timing down. Use your legs. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid of walking or hitting (batters). Don’t slow down you motion just to throw strikes.
Q: Will we see Paul Algar in the circle in 2012?
A: I want to come back. I still have that fire.