I have watched very few girls softball games in my life. If I had watched more, I might have realized that the ones I saw were probably fairly typical, rather than the unusually poor performances that they appeared to be.
I don’t remember ever seeing any girls softball games when I was growing up, though I suppose the high school must have had a team. I liked watching baseball games, but I didn’t go out of my way to see them. Then after I graduated from college, I got a part-time job teaching French and Spanish at a private Christian school, and when softball season came around I made a point of watching at least one home game.
I may have watched others, but the game I remember was against the Christian school run by the church I had attended as a teenager. Unlike the girls at our school, members of the opposing team were not allowed to wear pants, even to participate in sports. They wore culottes. They also seemed to have spent a great deal of time learning how to steal bases.
I sat on the sidelines, watching in dismay as our pitcher walked one girl after another. The inning seemed to go on forever – until our girls finally came to bat. I don’t remember if they got any hits, but they certainly never got any runs. Soon they were in the field again, and another interminable inning began.
I spent some time looking at the grass I was sitting in instead of at the game. There was a lot of clover, and after much searching I found a four-leaf clover. It did nothing to help our team, however, and the opposing team kept walking, kept stealing bases, and kept scoring. Maybe it was my bias as a teacher at that school, but I thought our girls looked like better athletes – even aside from the uniforms. But they sure couldn’t get a single run.
This evening I watched another girls softball game, probably for the first time since teaching at The Master’s School. My younger son has a friend in 5th grade who invited him to come watch her team play. Since he’s not good at making friends, and I have always liked baseball (and by extension, softball), I gladly agreed to take him, and called her dad to find out where they were playing.
I was amazed at home much trouble their pitcher had getting the ball over the plate. Well, over the plate in the strike zone, that is. It often hit the ground a few feet in front of the batter and rolled over the batter. Or flew over her head. Girl after girl walked. They didn’t steal bases as often as that team I remembered watching almost thirty years ago. But they did keep scoring.
Not that their pitcher was a lot better. She threw a lot of balls also, and several of them came very close to hitting the batter. One of them did hit the batter, and the game stopped for a second time while the coaches examined the girl’s hand. (The same team’s catcher had injured her hand earlier in the game.) Then she jogged to first base, and my son’s friend came to bat. Like the others, she soon walked. And before long, she scored, on one of the very few solid hits of the game.
The whole time I kept thinking how those girls need to learn to pitch better. What’s the point in pitching (relatively) fast if you can’t get the ball through the strike zone? But when I took a quick look at some articles on girls softball just now, I found out why. Pitchers who throw the ball more slowly but more accurately soon lose lots of games, as the batters improve their skills. Pitchers who concentrate on the throwing motion and speed will eventually develop accuracy, while the slower pitchers are too concerned with accuracy to develop speed.
I imagine we’ll be attending some more girls softball games. I won’t say my son didn’t get bored at all, but he paid more attention to the game than he has to professional baseball games, because someone he knew was playing. So I’ll sit through some more slow games – but I can see that the girls are learning to pitch (and getting encouragement from parents and coaches rather than “just get it over”), and eventually they’ll pick up speed.