Growing up, we all have our favorite activities. I started tee-ball as a little kid, and transitioned to playing softball, which I did all the way through high school. I would spend hours using a softball swing trainer to improve my game daily. I must say that spring time was always a favorite time of year for me. My birthday is early April, and softball always started up around the same time. There was something glorious about the cool air of spring in the evenings. Something refreshing about joining a new team, hitting the field, experiencing the twilight with new friends.
In softball, there are two players who touch the ball in virtually every play. The first one that comes to mind? Probably the pitcher. She is in control, in the center, often times the star of the team.
The other player in the center of the action is the catcher. In contrast to the role of the pitcher, the catcher’s role is hot, sweaty, and usually unglamorous. As the catcher, you wear a stinky helmet, shin guards that have been in rotation for several years, and you often get dirt in your face. Nowadays, I’ve noticed that there are items like fastpitch softball pants for players that really remind me of my uniform when I played the game.
In my years in the game, I played both pitcher and catcher, obviously not at the same time. While the crowd cheered for the pitcher, I loved being behind the plate. A good catcher is a force to be reckoned with. The catcher has to be able to stop people from stealing bases, and stop plays at the plate.
I learned a lot being the catcher. At 4’10”, the opposing team was rarely frightened by my stature. I knew I had to get into their heads in other ways, and I learned two effective ways of doing that. One is brain, the other braun (or something.) As the catcher, I knew that any ball thrown was a possible liability. The best way to stay in control was to refrain from actually throwing a ball more than needed.
As my team warmed up, the catcher gets a chance to throw the ball all the way down the field to second base before the first pitch goes out. I’d make sure that the coaches from the other team were watching, and I’d make that throw while still squatting in the catcher’s stance. I wanted to make sure the coaches knew I could make the throw, and that I could make the throw without any effort. It was my hope that if the coach knew that I could make the play, they wouldn’t send the runner to steal a base.
My other move was less refined. If a coach hadn’t paid attention to my arm early on, I still wanted to make sure I could stop the runner. The first time I saw a runner going, I’d jump up as fast as I could, throw that mask off and … YELL. No kidding, I’d yell at the runner. Sometimes I’d yell that “we’ve got one running” to my team, or “OH NO you don’t!” at the girl, or I’d growl. I’d take off in a full run towards her, roaring loudly, making the most noise I could.
It wasn’t a proud tactic. At first it wasn’t even a calculated tactic. But I realized that there were a couple of things that happened. The runner, usually stunned, stopped dead in her tracks and didn’t continue towards the base she was trying to steal. I was usually all the way to the pitcher’s mound by that time. The other thing that happened? An equally loud roar of laughter would erupt from the people watching the game, as they’d never seen anything quite like a tiny catcher growling with all of her might, running strait for someone trying to steal a base.