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Group makes the switch to fastpitch softball

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

BOSTON, Mass – Summer is usually the time when high school sports give way to traveling all-star teams and national tournaments. Such was the case for a team of ballplayers from communities north of Boston last weekend, except with a little twist.

The group exchanged the smaller ball and slower pace of baseball for the bigger ball and faster speed of softball, competing at the Amateur Softball Association’s boys’ fast-pitch nationals in Rolla, Mo.

The Seadogs have been a successful team on the men’s fast-pitch softball circuit for more than 20 years, but with fast-pitch teams fading, longtime player and team founder Tony Aresco of Stoneham wanted to introduce the game to the youth of the area.

“I want to get the game to grow in this area, and the only way to do it is with young kids,” Aresco said. “Softball is a game they can play into their 40s and 50s, unlike baseball, which is done after high school for most and after college for everyone else.”

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Fastpitch is in his blood for good

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

“The reason I keep playing fastpitch is because the game is fast and challenging. And because I love it.” – Brody Abell

EAGLEVILLE, MO – Brody Abell loves saddling up one of his horses and riding, and when the Fall hunting season rolls around, you’ll find him treading softly through the woods or perched in a deer stand trying to bring down one of the those big, Missouri Whitetail bucks.

Great hobbies for sure.

But that’s not all the 19-year-old Abell likes doing in his spare time. In fact, during the summer months the horses and hunting take a back seat to what he enjoys the most:

Hurling a softball windmill style. And Brody, a right-hander, who stands 6-foot-3, and a solid 265 pounds, certainly has come a long way in the sport since he began playing as a 13-year-old.

Let’s learn about this talented young athlete, who pitched Northwest Implement of Maryville, Missouri to the 2010 North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) 18-Under World Series Championship in Des Moines, Iowa.

In the NAFA World Series, you faced some good batters from Ramsey Financial (Bowen, Illinois). How did you approach facing them?
During the championship game (7-0 victory) I tried to work the zone and change speeds. If it looked like someone was getting close to getting a hold of something I would change the speed or throw a rise. I threw a lot of drop balls and mixed the rise well trying to keep the hitters off balance.

I mixed in my knuckle ball a couple of times. I tried to have just a good mix and good location, and I had great signal calling by my catcher Colton Holtman. (Brody finished with a 3-0 record.)

What is special about this NAFA championship?
We really worked hard and have been working towards this for a long time. The good thing about our team is we don’t have to rely on just one or two people because the whole team does their part. I think that about every player got a hit, scored a run, or made a play, so it definitely was a team effort. Northwest is a very sound team and I really liked playing with them.

Along with your teammates outstanding contributions, what stands out about that game?
The final out of the championship game was a strikeout. That’s something every pitcher wants to end the game with. When I threw that last pitch I knew the game was over. I was proud of myself and of my team.

You played in both the NAFA 18-Under and 23-Under tournaments. What was the biggest difference?
The biggest difference was consistency. You can make a mistake in the 18-under and get away with it, but in the 23-under if you make a mistake it usually hurts.

The 23-under teams are good hitters one through nine most of the time. They have more experience and their pitching is more consistent. There are good teams in both divisions and there were a lot of good players (in both divisions).

Northwest Implement has quite a legacy in boy’s and young men’s fastpitch. What has created all this success?
Greg McQuinn (sponsor and manager) is a great guy and does a lot for his teams by taking them to tournaments and giving them the experience of playing at higher levels. He does a lot for developing players by infusing the teams with youth and experience, and I appreciate him for letting me be a part of it.

The Northwest Implement 18-Under and 23-Under fastpitch players in action at the 2010 NAFA World Series in Des Moines and West Des Moines, Iowa.

What makes Northwest Implement a championship-caliber team?
Northwest works hard on the fundamentals. We hit well, we field well, and we pitch well. A lot of the players play or played in high school and that has given us a lot of experience and confidence in our abilities. We play as a team, we lose as a team, and we win as a team. Teamwork goes along way.

You started playing at 13, how did that come about?
I started out as a catcher until my freshman year. Our pitcher Clint Stobbe was a senior and someone needed to start to learn to pitch to replace him when he graduated. So I started working with Clint and former fastpitch pitcher from Eagleville, Dana Wilcoxson, helped me.

Along with Stobbe and Wilcoxson, who else has helped you develop as a pitcher?
I worked with Bill Hillhouse (International Softball Congress Commissioner) and he taught me a lot and fixed a few things I was having trouble with. I also worked with Gary Mullican (pitching coach for the USA Junior Men’s Team) while I was being looked at for the junior USA team.

How has your career developed in the six years you’ve been playing?
I started pitching in high school (North Harrison) when I was a junior. Then between my junior and senior year I started playing in a men’s league in Des Moines, Iowa with Greg Boyd. And that is when I got to spend a summer working with the Manley family (New Zealand softball players.)

They were playing for the Midwest Stampede and would play league with us. It was great getting to work with and watch Jeremy, Regan, and Glen pitch. I remember many nights staying late, so Jeremy could help me with the rise ball. And Regan would catch me and help me by talking me through games. It was great.

How did all this mentoring pay off?
My senior (high school) season I felt like a different player. All the things I had seen and done set me up for a great season. After graduation it was back to Des Moines for league and getting to meet and work with (pitcher) Tony Peeples.

Tony would pitch one game and I would catch him, then I would pitch and he would catch me. Then at the ISC World Tournament I worked with Rob Schweyer on getting more behind the ball, it really changed me.

You also worked with another renowned fastpitch pitcher and instructor?
The start of this year I worked with Doug Gillis just to make sure every thing was going right. I don’t think I would be where I am with out anyone of them, and would love to get to work with them all again.

What other sports did you try?
In high school I tried basketball but it wasn’t for me. We didn’t have baseball or football. But it wouldn’t have mattered; I was a softball player.

What high school team did you play fastpitch for?
I played for the North Harrison Shamrocks of Eagleville, Missouri. Our team has had a good history of being tough and my four years were no different. During my freshmen year we won our conference, won the conference tournament, and placed second at the state tournament.

My sophomore year we placed second at state (Brody was selected to the All Conference team as a catcher). My junior year – the first season I pitched – we tied for the conference championship, and finished second at state (Brody was chosen All Conference and All State as a pitcher).

How did you finish your final high school season?
My senior year we won the conference tournament and placed third at the state tournament. I finished the season with 208 strikeouts in 104 innings (Brody was again selected to the All Conference and All State teams).

Now that you’ve finished your high school fastpitch career, what keeps you motivated to continue playing?
The reason I keep playing fastpitch is the people I meet and the friends I make, and because the game is fast and challenging. And because I love it. It’s in my blood for good.

What do you do in your spare time?
I like to hunt, fish, and ride my horses, but those are just hobbies, softball is what I like to do the most.

What are some of your most memorable times as a young ball player?
My most memorable times are winning the 2008 ISC 19-under World Championship (Sand Prairie Construction from WI), winning the 2010 18-under ASA National Championship, and the 2010 NAFA World Series championship with Northwest Implement.

Any unforgettable experiences on the ball diamond?
Having a hand in recording every out at a high school game. I had 15 strikeouts, caught a fly ball, tagged a kid out at second, and got a kid in a run down between home and third. The game only lasted six innings and there were 18 outs.

Any more fond memories of playing the sport?
Hitting back-to-back homeruns at the 2008 ISC 19-Under World Tournament with my bash brother Lawrence Bay. And winning my first men’s game at 17-years-old.

In your brief career, what men’s teams have you played for?
I’ve played for a number of men’s teams (including) Hopeville Hackers, Topeka Wave, Piper Lake, Herzog, Polsky, Miljavac Electric, and of course Northwest Implement where I pitched with Brandon Craig, who was my high school coach.

What’s in store for Brody Abell in the coming season?
I’ll be with Northwest Implement next year and there are a few other teams I will probably help out. I just want to keep playing.

What would you tell other boy’s or young men about why they should give fastpitch a try?
It has been quite an experience playing fastpitch softball. I’ve met great friends from other countries. I’ve played ball all over the Midwest and have had experiences that will last a lifetime. I wouldn’t have any of that if it weren’t for softball and all the people who helped me out along the way.

For more great fastpitch news, visit these websites:
Al’s Fastball
Fastpitch West
International Softball Congress
North American Fastpitch Association
2010 ISC World Tournament, Midland, Mich.