I’ve seen some pretty cool things on the softball fields of Texas, but I witnessed something special the other day. My daughter’s teammate and friend Maddie Calvert got under the skin of the opposing catcher for setting up too far forward in the batter’s box. The catcher complained to the umpire, but blue wouldn’t call it, probably because the lines of the batter’s box had long since disappeared. For some reason, though, this really angered the catcher, and once she got riled up about it, she just wouldn’t let go. She continued to complain about Maddie to the umpire and when that didn’t produce the desired results, she started berating her. Once Maddie got on base, the opposing catcher tried repeatedly to throw her out, even to the detriment of her own pitcher’s count. And for the remainder of the game, that catcher gave Maddie lots of what they call “stink eye” in Hawaii. As crazy as it sounds, it was as if the catcher had made it her personal mission to somehow get back at Maddie for having stood too far forward in the batter’s box.
With each subsequent inning, things got worse and at one point, the catcher’s coach was ejected from the game and some parents started saying some not-very-nice things. It was as if the catcher’s psychotic behavior had become contagious and spread to the rest of her team. And it all came to a head in the last inning, when Maddie’s arch nemesis came up to bat with Maddie pitching.
As the catcher set up in the batter’s box, far forward, of course, all eyes shifted to Maddie who’d been enduring the catcher’s onslaught since the start of the game. Up to this point, Maddie had chosen to turn the other cheek, but what would she do now that she had the opportunity to pitch to the catcher? Maddie could have beaned her with a pitch or at least fanned her back, but instead of getting mad, Maddie decided to get even.
The first pitch is a hard thrown screwball, and because the catcher has set up so far forward in the batter’s box, the ball sails past her before she even knows what’s happened. Strike one. The next pitch is a change up for a ball and then a drop for another ball. With the count at 2-1, Maddie goes into her wind up and with a slight grunt, lets loose a fastball that catches the inside corner. Strike two. Then Maddie takes a breath and looks at the batter; she gloves the ball and pauses for just a second, and then she bends down to start her wind up. In perfect form, she springs her body forward and whips her arm down and out, and she launches a rise ball that takes flight at the plate; the batter unleashes a hard cut of a swing…and misses. Strike three.
The stands went crazy as frustration, anger and relief let loose. Maddie turned quickly to face her team and jabbed two fingers forcefully into in the air. She may have been signaling the second out, but to me it looked like she was thrusting a victory sign in the air for having won her duel. And she had every right to be proud. Maddie had been presented with a unique challenge, and there were many ways it could have ended, but in the end Maddie let her pitches do the talking.
I still think of that last pitch every now and then, and it always makes me smile. It’s not everyday you see a story like this unfold on a softball field. As they say in Texas, it was a hoot. Maddie’s decisions that day says a lot about her character. The story helps define her not only as a pitcher, but as a person. Upon hearing of this story, a good friend pointed out that Maddie, “…will do well in life.” I agree.
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