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Team USA suffers third loss in ISF World Championship

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

palazzo
Matt Palazzo hit two home runs to lead Team USA against South Africa. From Des Moines, Iowa, Palazzo is a three-time ASA First Team All American, and Second Team, once.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – The question being bandied about Facebook was, “has Team USA ever lost to South Africa?”

Well, the past remains unknown, but for the present, the answer is yes.

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Best of the West and Santa Barbara, perfect partners for men’s fastpitch

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

BestOfWest.web

“The Best of the West bucks the trend of encouraging teams and (players) to play down and encourages them to play up and take on the best.” – Dave Blackburn, Best of the West tournament director for 13 years.

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF – Many open level men’s fastpitch tournaments have vanished in Southern California. But there’s one that continues to survive, and many would say thrive: The Best of the West.

Come the first weekend in June, the Best of the West will celebrate its 23rd consecutive year in offering a tournament for “all comers,” as former 13-year tournament director (1998-2010), Dave Blackburn would say. Ten teams entered last year, and Blackburn and current tournament director, Clyde Bennett, are expecting another strong field.

But first a little background.

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USA must begin developing “Made In America” men’s fastpitch pitchers

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012


Can the U.S. develop its own Made In America pitching such as New Zealand, Australia, or Canada does with Canadian pitchers like Sean Whitten, shown here pitching for the California A’s.

YUCAIPA, CA – Name a couple of American-born fastpitch pitchers capable hurling the USA Men’s National Team to the championship in the 2013 International Softball Federation World Championship?

Stumped? I couldn’t name any either. That’s because the U.S. doesn’t have any.

I looked at Team USA’s roster and found pitchers Gerald Muizelaar and Travis Price listed. Both are Canadian born and now living in the U.S. And both are respectable pitchers, but capable of pitching the U.S. to a title? I hope so, but I don’t think so.

Muizelaar pitched very well in the 2012 ISC World Tournament, earning a spot on the All-World second team with a 3-1 record, 1.09 ERA, while leading the Fargo Kegel Black Knights to fifth place. So of course, he’s a welcome addition to the USA squad.

But I wonder about Price. He’s a USA team veteran, but really, he’s at the most a mid-range Major pitcher and top Intermediate pitcher. Sure, he can beat some of the lesser world’s teams. But Canada? New Zealand? Australia? I think that’s expecting too much.

So unless there’s a later addition of some world-caliber pitcher we don’t know about, USA Head Coach Peter Turner will be handing the game ball to Muizelaar most of the time.

In the 2009 ISF World Championship in Saskatoon, Canada, the USA squad finished fourth behind Canada, runner-up New Zealand, and Gold Medalist Australia.

One stat in particular stands out about Team USA 2009. In runs allowed, they gave up 45 in 10 games (7-3 record). In comparison, Australia allowed but 12 runs (9-1), New Zealand 26 runs (9-2), and Canada gave up 28 (8-2).

In fact, among the 16 teams entered, Team USA finished seventh in runs allowed. Teams such as Japan, which finished sixth, allowed 43 runs; Argentina 42. Even the Czeck Republic and the Philippines allowed fewer runs than the U.S. squad with 36 each.

This means of course, that a big part of the runs allowed problem is due to pitching. I’m not knocking the guys toeing the rubber for Team USA. But the pitching stats don’t lie. And they often tell why a team wins or loses against the best in the world.

None-the-less, Men’s National Team selection committee member Warren Jones stated on the USA Softball website:

“I think we’re going to have a really competitive (2013) team. We’ve got some new, young faces that have made a name for themselves in the fastpitch softball world and we’ve got some older guys who have been around and know the ropes.”

Unfortunately for U.S. men’s major fastpitch those new, young faces that Jones refers to don’t include U.S. born pitchers.

So how do we turn around our problem of a lack of “Made In America” pitchers?

First of all, I think it’s critical that the USA National Team become the top priority for everyone involved in the sport. And that includes the three organizations governing men’s fastpitch in the U.S.: the Amateur Softball Association (ASA), the International Softball Congress (ISC), and the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA).

The three organizations should form a joint pitching committee with one overriding priority – identify gifted athletes and get them on the rubber. That means any talented fastpitch (or baseball) athlete with the physical tools needs to be steered to the rubber (hogtie and force the shy types if need be).

Here’s an example: Let’s say a team has an outfielder – big, strong and blessed with a powerful throwing arm – on its roster. He’s content to bat third in the lineup, content to hit home runs and drive in runs, and earn his All-World awards.

I would say, “Sorry young man, but your country needs you. And it’s not in the batter’s box. It’s in the circle.”

Some of you are muttering, “you can’t force an athlete to become a fastpitch pitcher; they have to want it!”

True, desire is absolutely a critical attribute to becoming a pitcher. But think for a minute. I bet most of you can recall a pitcher or two, who started at shortstop (Anyone remember ISC Hall of Fame pitcher, Jimmy Moore?) or the outfield, or behind the plate, who when encouraged, took up pitching.

Another ISC All-World pitcher comes to mind – Darwin Tolzin, who pitched St. Paul All-American Bar to the 1976 ISC World Tournament title. I believe he started as a position player and only took up pitching when his team at the time needed a pitcher.

No doubt, U.S. men’s fastpitch is in a serious decline, losing more teams each year. So as far as that goes, all LEVELS of TEAMS should be targeting its top athletes and encouraging, demanding, pleading – whatever it takes – to get them in the circle.

Sure, it’s going to take a few years before our pitching prospects develop to the best of their ability. But at this point, what do we have to lose by trying to cultivate “Made in America” pitching? The only other alternative is to hope that top foreign pitchers take up residence in the U.S. like Muizelaar and Price. But what does that say about our fortitude to develop our own talent?

So to USA Softball, the ASA, ISC and NAFA we ask:

“Can you set aside any differences you may have and form a joint pitching committee that identifies the sport’s best athletes and targets them for the circle?”