Importance of Being a Team: Softball
It's the first game of the season. The team has been hard at work during practice. Now it was time to see how the team has grow. Stepping out on the raked sand and newly chalked lines, the players jog into their positions. The pitcher warms up throwing practice pitches to the catcher. The other girls toss the ball back and forth warming up their arms.
The coaches stand in the their designated dugout reviewing the starting lineups and positions. The umpires stand talking to each other before the game starts. The head umpire makes sure his counter is set and strides over behind the catcher. The catcher greets him shaking his hand. The umpire tells the catcher to wrap it up. The catcher stands up yelling, "Balls in!" The girls wrap up their throwing practice getting last throws before rolling the softballs in. The pitcher gives two serious pitches as the batter walks out taking a practice swing.
The girls on the field begin to squat ready. All the girls feel the nerves setting in as the batter places her feet in the box by home plate. The field umpires single that they are ready. The pitcher is lightly tossing the ball in her mitt judging the batter for weaknesses. The head umpire shouts, "Play ball!" He squats behind the catcher alerting the pitcher to start when ready.
The pitcher wiped the forming sweat off her head. With a deep breath, she pitches a fastball straight to the catcher's mitt knowing the batter would not swing on the first pitch. Gaining her first strike, the catcher communicates a suggestion for pitch. The pitcher shakes her head once, but I agrees to the second type of pitch, curve ball.
The game has begun.
Growing up, I played softball. I remember all the girls wanting to play the infield or pitcher because they thought this position was more important or because it had more to do. I have thought about it recently that I loved softball, but what if I was not the catcher or third baseman?
Would I still love the game like I do? I remember being placed in right field a couple times, but I will admit it got boring there except when the throws to first were to hard or when there was a fly ball.
While going to scrimmage with a few friends up at school, we did not have enough players for every position. We needed the pitcher, but we took out the catcher and a few outfielders leaving one person. I did not realize that having people missing would effect the game.
The one outfielder wanted help after a while. A lot of us did not realize how well we could hit. So we ended up putting two people in the outfield and having two in field players. We could not play teams, so we just rotated positions. Switching between two pitchers.
It is so important to have every player in the field. Each player is so important because games are unpredictable. You never know where the batter will hit the ball or even if they will. The pitcher does get to play more as well as the catcher, but these two cannot catch the fly balls. These two positions cannot monitor the rest of the field.
If a fly ball to right is caught, that batter is out. Without that player, the ball would be live and will get to base. Every person has different strengths that make them better for their position.
Let's explore these different positions quickly.
Let's start with pitcher, the most well known of all the positions. It is actually quite difficult to pitch the ball with accuracy. It is extremely difficult to actually do the different pitches, especially in softball.
The pitcher has more rules on them. If they step off the mound too early, the pitch will not count or made a ball depending on the umpire and area. As you get older, the "windmill" pitch becomes mandatory in some leagues. This is where the arm makes a circle motion releasing when the circle is complete. This makes the ball go faster. (I do not understand why, but I like that pitching style which I pitch)
Pitchers have to have quick reflexes. Sometimes line drives are hit at them making them drop quick. Instincts are what make them drop, not their brains. Some people do not have these reflexes.
They also have a lot of pressure on them. If they walk too many people, they get risked being taken out. That pressure is extreme. When you do well, the relief feels great. So the pressure is a good and bad thing.
I adored being a catcher. I loved this position so much, especially when I learned I was really good at playing it. This might be a little longer, since I know every aspect of this position.
To be a catcher, you really need to know the pitcher. You need to know their strengths, as well where there pitches go to place the mitt in the right area to make it "appear" as a strike. Every umpire is different, so it looks good when the ball lands straight in the mitt.
You need to know how to throw a ball to second base fast without hitting the pitcher and getting the person stealing.
You need to be observant. You have to know a batter's weakness just by how the hold the bat, their stance, and little indicators. When they swing, it is the best way to judge. You have to watch to see if the pitch is overthrown. You need to know where a pop up is and where it will land. You need to watch the runners in case they steal.
Reflexes are very important. You need to be able to get the mask off quickly to catch a pop up. You need to be able to see the steal before they even steal to pop up quickly and throw the ball. Getting an overthrown pitch fast is important because that is when the steals happen.
You need to know how to change the gear quickly. It is so much fun when you are first up after an inning of catching because you have to quickly change out of the gear and get a helmet and bat. Also you have to put the gear out of the way. If you are on base when there are two outs and not pulled out to change, you have to be extremely quick. You can call a timeout for a replacement runner.
Most important about this position is that while the pitcher may seem like the leader, it is the catcher. They have to keep track of the outs reminding the fielders. They also guard home plate. They support the team with pep talks. Most importantly, they keep the pitcher focused and give advice. Also, the catcher has the power of timeouts. They can call meetings at the mound. You would not see an outfielder doing this, maybe the pitcher sometimes.
The infield protects the bases. First base gets a lot more action because it is first. This is where you want to cut the runners off. These players are quick with ground balls and fast overhand throws to first and third. Each position has different set of ways to play.
First Base: Player plays the white bag. This is different for different age levels and areas. This bag can be a double bag, one white and one orange. The white for the first baseman, the orange for the runner. They need to be at the bag quick and can catch the ball. They even have a special mitt like a catcher has their own mitt.
Second Baseman: Stands between the two bags. They have to be the cutoff for the outfielders. If the ball is hit far into right field, the second baseman runs halfway to catch the ball and throw to base where runner is going or back to pitcher quickly. If the ball is hit to left field, the second baseman covers the base. When someone is trying to steal and the batter is right handed, second baseman will cover the base. They need to get there faster than the person stealing. When a person begins to lead, the second baseman will cover the base even if they do not steal. These players play behind the base because sliding is more possible than first. When the first baseman gets a grounder, second baseman will cover first while the short stop covers second in case the runner gets through.
Short stop: Covers second when the ball is hit to the right side of the field. Position is the same as second, but opposite.
Third Baseman: When a third baseman is bored, you know the team is doing well. This is the last chance before a person can run home for a scoring point. I played this position as well and it is tougher than it looks. This base is always covered. It is like first except players can slide into third. When a grounder is hit to third, the third baseman scoops it. If it is a bunt, the shortstop will most likely pick it up especially when there is a runner on second. Player ALWAYS plays behind bag. Third baseman injuries occur because of sliding. That is how I hurt my knee. I slid into third and the girl was play the bag in front of it and our knees collided.
The outfield is not fun when you are first learning softball because most hits do not get out there. When you get older, more tend to go out there. These players usually are blinded by the sun because of all the fly balls. Grounders can be hit as well.
These players are the fastest in running. They have to be in different parts of the outfield in seconds. They have to dive and be good at judging where the ball will land. They need strong arms to get the ball back to the pitcher quickly. Once the pitcher has the ball, runners have to stop.
This is a really important area because the runners usually get more bases when the ball is farther from the pitcher. These players have to get the overthrows as well. Usually there could be three to four depending on how much there is to cover.
Right Fielder: This position is important for left hand batters. The ball will go to right field. Since lefties are not as common as right handed people, this position is best for backing up the first baseman. Right handed people when swinging to early and get a piece of the ball could end up in right field as well. They catch the foul balls.
Center Fielder: This can have two: one to help the right fielder and one for the left fielder. This player(s) backs up the second baseman as well as get the line drives. When there are two, they usually are in sync with one another to avoiding clashing.
Left Fielder: Basically the opposite of the right fielder. This one is typically the fastest of all the players because most hits go to left field. They back up the third baseman as well.
The Secret about Great Teamwork
Are the teams that work the best the ones who know each other the best? They know how another play will react.
Are the teams that work the best the ones who go out for ice cream after every game?
Are the teams that work the best the ones that are all best friends?
They could be the best team, but that is not WHY they are the best team. The best teams are the ones who communicate. Players who call the ball to avoid crashing. The pitcher and catcher communicate about the best pitch on a batter. The players who support one another with shouts of encouragement. The batters on deck yelling chants and screaming when their player is running.
Every person loves praise. To get support while stealing a base usually makes the runner try harder knowing their teammates are cheering her on.
Most importantly are the after game reflections. What happened during the game even if they won. This shows what they need to practice more on.
Even on the field, the fielders cheering on the pitcher and clapping their gloves and hands. Even running off the field, they are still talking.
Assumptions are where errors occur. You cannot assume someone will get the ball because you honestly do not know. At that moment, someone could be stung by a bee and focus on that.
This is so important in softball that during practices they have drills. One of my coaches made us run laps if we did not communicate. It is not only to make the plays, but for safety. Teamwork bonds the girls and protects them in a dangerous sport.