While I’m tempted to get into the Biblical implications of this topic I think I’ll just stick to softball. Ha ha. But, I’m not sure there is a more accurate phrase to describe this subject.
I got the idea for this topic in reading my fellow Softball Magazine columnist Ken Krause’s story a couple months ago. He spoke glowingly about me (thank you Ken!) and offered advice hitters, while helping them face people like me and those that I try to coach. While nobody can ever fault anyone for wanting to improve, I will take a stance against Ken’s opinion that the hitters need more advice and helpful hints! So, stop it Ken!
I’m not sure people realize how much the came has changed from its initial creation. Some feel these changes are for the better and greater good of the game. Others, like me, are purists and wish the game would go back to the 1-0 pitchers’ duels. I know, I know, I’m very biased about that because I’m a pitcher. But, this is my entire point; fastpitch is supposed to be a pitcher’s game!
There is an old saying that says; fastpitch is a game where a hitter can fail 7 out of 10 times and still be an all-star. Hitting .300 was considered outstanding. Today, it’s about average.
Evolution has crept into the game in almost every way except one; the rule are still quite restricting for the pitchers. Inherently, almost every internet message board/forum I’ve seen lately has several threads on “crow hopping” or pitchers that leap. Many of these people don’t understand the difference between leaping and crow hopping but, I’ll leave that topic for another day. The point is, while the game has expounded in all areas, pitching is the one thing people want to hold back.
Here’s a rhetorical question for those who played the game of fastpitch, male or female: can you remember when there was no such thing as a $300 bat? Or, take it one step further: can you remember when there was wooden bats in the game? But today, we actually have a “banned bat list”. This means the bats are too good! They are designed to hit the ball further and harder than ever before. This is part of the gameâ€™s evolution.
Now, lets look at another change; the balls. Today’s balls are made with a .47 or more compression and a poly core center. It sounds like a virtual golf ball coming off those lethal weapon bats! Can anyone remember the last time one of their game balls became “dead” or softened up? How about when the balls used to go out of shape because they were made with a cork center and were restricted flight? I’m willing to bet that hasn’t happened in several years for most of us. The balls are made to last today. It’s part of the evolution.
Now, let’s take a look at the pitchers. It’s still required to keep both feet on the rubber when starting and the umpire is like an eagle eye on first base making sure the pitcher doesn’t use his/her legs too much and goes airborne or does a replant.
Somewhere along the way, this game has changed. People want to see more offense and less pitcher dominance. But, instead of playing a lower level of fastpitch, they choose to restrict those that want to pitch with the same evolution of the game as the batters have. After all, it’s not hard to trace back to how pitcher’s leaping got started: it was because of how quickly the technology allowed the hitters to catch up. Pop flies are now sailing over the fence with the bats and balls of today while 5 years ago, it was a routine out.
The ISC (International Softball Congress) is an organization dedicated to men’s fastpitch only. There is no women’s fastpitch and no slow pitch allowed. It is strictly for the male gender only. In 1981, the ISC World Championship was held in Saginaw Michigan. That same year, pitching records were set that are hard to fathom. An example is what came to be known as “The game”. Midland Michigan vs. Madison Wisconsin. It lasted over 7 ½ hours and went 34 innings before Midland won, 2-1. Both starting pitchers Peter Finn (Midland) and Pete Meredith (Madison) threw the entire game. There was 106 strikeouts between the 2 pitchers. Then, to give another tidbit, thee game immediately after this one went 20 innings between Tulsa Oklahoma and Ashland Ohio!
I doubt anyone can imagine such a thing ever happening again. With the way the game is today, bats and balls along with restricted pitching rules which don’t allow the pitchers to compensate, it’s just too unlikely to even consider. The ERA’s of the top pitchers at the world championship has increase by well over a run per game in recent years. Sure, teams have gotten better and maybe the pitching isn’t what it used to be but, neither are the sticks in the batters hands or the balls they are hitting!
Some would call the previously mentioned games boring. No offense means it’s boring to many out there. This is another example of the evolution of the game. People want to see runs scored. They want homeruns. Remember how much the ’98 MLB homerun chase captivated the country? But, in keeping with the evolution of the game, people forget about it’s foundation and how it was created.
There are all kinds of levels of fastpitch for those that want more offense. There is also slow pitch (ewwwww, did I just say that word?) and modified pitch with a cross between FP and SP. I have no problem with those that want to see more hitting and even those that want to watch it. But, I don’t think that should mean we keep the pitchers from taking back what was theirs from the start: game dominance. Let’s stop taking away from the pitcher and giving to the hitters. I’m not just talking about the equipment but, let’s make sure slap hitters are in the box when they make contact and not ½ down the first base line, while power hitters are not behind the back line of the batters box.
The reality is pitchers need to do something to get back on top of the game. Rules are rules, there’s no question about it. And the rules indicate that pitchers are not allowed to leap or crow hop. I’d be ok with this and would never say another word about it as providing the hitters are forced to play with the equipment from yesteryear and from when the rules were made, the same way the pitcher’s rules are.
The bottom-line is this is fastpitch. The rules need to be changed to allow the pitchers to catch back up. Whether it’s allowing the pitchers to step back off the rubber to gain leverage (starting with one foot on the rubber) or being more liberal with the “leaping” rule lets not forget that this game was created on a pitching dominated foundation. To take that away and still call this fastpitch is like saying I want to go swimming but, I don’t want to get wet.