Women carry on the great tradition of fastpitch softball

Written by Bob on February 28th, 2012

UCLA Bruin catcher Dani Yudin rips a hit off Missouri Tigers’ pitcher Chelsea Thomas during the 2012 Cathedral City Softball Classic, Feb. 26, at Big League Dreams softball complex in Cathedral City, Calif.
(For more photos of The Classic, visit my link at the bottom of the story.)

CATHEDRAL CITY, CA – Ever wonder what fastpitch softball would be like if the women hadn’t swooped in and saved the sport? What with the dying state of the boys and men’s side, the sport would surely be in a dismal state. If not for our counterparts.

Most certainly Title IX enacted by Congress in 1973 paved the way for women to compete on equal scale with men in athletics. Which of course opened the door to women’s collegiate sports, including softball. No such luck for the men’s side of softball at the collegiate level. And even high school, for that matter.

We can whine about the unfairness of it all: “If we had high school or college men’s fastpitch, our side of the sport would be flourishing as well or better than the females!” shout some diehard men’s fastpitch buffs.

True, but unfortunately that’s not the way it worked out for us. So quit crying about our (dismal) state of affairs, and give the women the credit they deserve. For they have done an extraordinary job once given the opportunity.

So here’s kudos to all the girls and women playing the great game of fastpitch softball. And they are playing at an incredibly skilled level. On par with the men for sure. Granted they aren’t as physically strong.

But when it comes to mechanics – at the plate, in the circle, fielding the ball – the women are at least equal, and in my judgment, have better mechanics than many of the men. At least at the NCAA Division I level.

The women develop these sound mechanics simply because they start playing at a young age under the guidance of skilled team and personal coaches. Ever wonder what the male side of the sport would be like if we had the same committed coaches teaching the boys?

I’ve been reporting on girls’ and women’s fastpitch at the high school through college level for over 10 years. I’m amazed by the advancement in their ability. They keep getting better and better.

Colorado State Rams’ pitcher Kelli Eubanks shows her determination at “The Classic.”

And last Sunday (Feb. 26) was a prime example.

I watched the final day of the ninth annual 2012 Cathedral City (Calif.) Softball Classic held at the Big League Dreams ball diamonds. What an incredible collection of softball talent on display. The best in the world, I believe.

Many of the nations top-25 ranked teams by USA Today and NFCA were on hand, including: The nation’s No. 1 ranked Florida Gators, Arizona (15), California (5), Georgia (13), Missouri (11), Nebraska (22), Oklahoma (6), Oregon (19)…and many more. Thirty five teams in all.

These young women played fastpitch like it’s supposed to be played, hard and fast, while employing all facets of the game as the situation called for – bunting, hit and run, driving the ball in the opposite direction.

And the pitchers. What marvelous mound work. I was impressed with Texas Longhorns’ Rachel Fox. UCLA Bruins’ Destiny Rodino. Missouri Tigers’ Chelsea Thomas…what great mechanics, what great movement on the ball, and pinpoint location.

Another thing I noticed. Most of these women were in great shape. You can tell by their physiques that they’ve been putting in hours of sweat equity in the weight room. The Nebraska Cornhuskers has an infield that stature-wise rivals many men’s teams. Tall, strong and sure-handed.

And the fans.

They came in the hundreds. Parking in and around the stadium was at a premium. About 2,000 crowded around the ball diamond as UCLA and Missouri battled it out. And hundreds more packed each of the four other ball fields as games were played non-stop.

The professionals were on hand as well. The National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) USSSA Pride of Kissimmee, FL played three exhibition games. There roster is star-studded with Jessica Mendoza (Stanford), Cat Osterman (Texas), Danielle Lawrie (Washington), and Natasha Watley (UCLA), among several others. The young girls crowding around them showed this sport has risen to professional popularity.

Mike White, ISC Hall of Fame pitcher, is the head coach of the Oregon Ducks.

Also, I noticed two former men’s stars of the sport in the coaching box: ISC Hall of Fame pitcher Mike White in his third year leading the Oregon Ducks. And Ehren Earleywine at the helm of Missouri.

Fastpitch fans may want to plan for next year’s event. It’s well worth your sport’s viewing pleasure. Outside of the College World Series in Oklahoma City, can there be a greater women’s fastpitch tournament in the U.S.? I doubt it.

Yes, the women have carried on the fastpitch tradition exceptionally well. And long after the men’s game has disappeared (I project it will be gone in the U.S. in another 15 years unless drastic steps are taken to revive it at the boys’ and young men’s level), the women will still be providing us with athletic entertainment in the great sport of fastpitch softball.

To see photos of The Classic, visit this link: Click Here

4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Larry "SARGE" Wendel says:

    Seeing Whitey [Michael White] in the coaches box. What a competitor, seen him throwing several times in the ISC world tournaments.He had it all and always had a very good team behind him. He threw for several teams in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin and always was one of the best, that is why he is an Hall of Famer.

  2. Bob says:

    Thanks Larry. White certainly belongs in that class we call, “one of the greatest of all time.”

  3. Milt Stark says:

    It was with great pride that I read about and saw pictures of Mike White and Ehren Earlywine in your women’s fastpitch softball piece. In my many years with the ISC, I saw these two perform at the highest level many times. More importantly, I saw them as outstanding sportsmen and gentlemen.

  4. Bob says:

    They both looked like they could step on the ball field and play with the best of them.

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