I am BARRY HESS > Blog

Slow Pitch Softball - a Justification

I often wish fast pitch softball was still prevalent among the communities across the upper-Midwest. My father played for about 25 years, and I have some great childhood memories of packing up for the games each week and tournaments on weekends. It was always a great time and perhaps explains why I could handle whole weekends attending college or major league baseball games now, if time and finances allowed. I just love the game.

Fast pitch has gone the way of the dinosaur, or at least the duck-billed platypus - not quite gone, but endangered. Golf is probably the biggest culprit. Golf has become the national past time for a lot of folks. Not only do people watch it, but they can participate in it with reasonable hope for success. Fast pitch softball used to be this way. It would take a couple year commitment, but eventually anyone with moderate athletic skills could find his/her place among a team of nine players.

Another major factor in the dwindling men’s fast pitch realm is probably a change in family roles/values. I think a lot of fringe players decided it was more important to spend that time after work with family (and maybe golf on Saturday). In the past, a rural family would invariably include a wife who didn’t work and could pack up the kids for the game. Many social events for woman took place during the daytime hours, leaving her nights free to travel to neighboring communities for games. Now many of those same events occur during the evenings, making scheduling a nightmare. Now I’m not saying the change in male and female roles in a marriage relationship is wrong, but it certainly is a factor.

So what do we have left? Slow pitch softball. There are many levels of play. Some are so recreational that one doesn’t ever need to practice, much less know how to catch. The top level of play involves ten ex-football players per team and basically a homerun hitting contest to see who wins. These top teams require nearly the commitment of formerly existing fast pitch teams, but not nearly as well-rounded hitting skills.

Since slow pitch has become the only game in town, I’ve settled into the mid-level leagues. Here there is still a need to play defense and understand the fundamentals of the game. Batting is still watered down beyond recognition, but the rest of the game is fairly intact. Oh, and there is an extra fielder, which is needed because the batters are basically hitting off the tee.

Now a baseball purist will initially mock the complete lack of the batter-pitcher stand-off so intrinsic to the game, and he would probably be right. But hey, we need to work with what we have. Slow pitch softball is still a thinking man’s activity when compared to the other casual sports options. Golf should be a thinking man’s game, but people rarely actually play it that way. Pick up basketball - well, no plays will be run there. Sand volleyball will often result in one needing to know his position, space and who best to get the ball to.

Slow pitch softball doesn’t have plays to execute either. Yet it does have many intricacies that can be experienced even at the lowest level play. As a fielder each at bat offers a different scenario, which in turn offers another set of scenarios based on where the ball goes.

Man at first, nobody out. I'm going to try to turn the double play on the ground ball. But what if he hits it to the outfield gap? Who am I going to back up? Or do I need to cover a base? What if there is a run-down?

Men on first and third, one out. Do I go for the double play or cut the guy off at home? Depends on how hard the ball is hit. What if it is a slow dribbler? Do I just throw to first?

Granted these scenarios are often offered to only a few positions on the field.

I contend that softball will be the answer for someone looking for a “thinking man’s” sport, even if it is slow pitch. Feel free to disagree.