North Shore Times : February 14th 2013
www.northshoretimes.co.nz 31 NORTH SHORE TIMES, FEBRUARY 14, 2013 SPORT The long and short of softball Pitcher: Black Sox pitcher Jeremy Manley in action against Denmark at the 2009 world champs in Canada. Photo: REUTERS/DAVID STOBBE Catcher: Mark Sorenson kitted out in his catchers gear celebrates a win at the 2004 world champs in Christchurch. Photo: REUTERS/SIMON BAKER Batter: Black Sox captain Rhys Casley makes a quick decision on how to deal with this pitch at the last world champs. Photo: REUTERS/DAVID STOBBE BEINTOWIN The North Shore Times has 25 double passes to the Tradestaff ISF 2013 Men's World Softball Championships at Rosedale Park in Albany from March 1 to 10 to give away. To go in the draw email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address and daytime contact telephone number with ''softball'' in the subject line. The competition closes tomorrow. We are only a few weeks away from the start of the Tradestaff ISF Men's World Softball Championships at Rosedale Park in Albany. For the avid sport watcher who will be watching it on TV or the family supporting their team in the stands there are a few important things to watch out for which will help you understand and enjoy the game just that little bit more. Softball is a game for all shapes and sizes but there are ideal sizes for specific positions. Pitchers are usually tall with long arms and legs while catchers are solid and flexible like me and com- municate with the pitcher on tactics. The best fielders in the team are usually the short stop and second base posi- tions. It is speed and agility that counts here and gener- ally the smaller players on the team are best suited to play here. The first and third base players together with the outfielders combine quick reactions with speed and have the best throwing arms on the team. If I am on the batting team there are a number of ways for a lineup but I think the player first up needs to be fast and is consistent with getting on to the bases. I prefer a left handed player next as this variety in play often sees a bunt or slap hit at the ball (watch out for this). The third player is the best hitter in the lineup, this follows on with numbers four, five and six who are the most powerful and drive most of the home runs. Consistency is everything and players seven and eight are not the show ponies but are solid consistent contact hitters. You finish as you mean to start and player number nine has to have the same skill set as the lead off player. As we move into combat on the diamond, the pitcher is eyeballing the batter, the batter is anticipating that pitch and the catcher stands his ground waiting for that ball to arrive. The batter is only 46 feet (14 metres) away from the pitcher, so they only have less than half a second to decide and react -- the harder the pitcher can make it, the tougher it is to hit it. So how does the pitcher disguise his pitch? There are three main styles of pitching and you will see variations depending on their ability and the tac- tics that they want to throw to specific batters. With the drop ball'' the pitcher is looking for the top to bottom rotation and the ball just rolls off the fingers when released. The rise ball'' is the opposite and you will see the ball in an upward flight to the batter. But the one that hopefully confuses the batters is the change up'' ball, this is a much slower pitch but with the same arm speed, used to disguise the pitch and fool the batter. So when that ball is hit everything happens so fast with the ball flying around and runners on the base paths, you really have to do all the thinking before the play. For the team fielding this is a challenge especially when the players are on bases, this is when the defensive play unfolds and players on the bases and in the outfield will be asking themselves: If the ball is hit to me, where do I go with it?'' IfIcan,doItagtherun- ner if he runs? Do I throw it to the next base in front of the runner and have him tagged out or do I take the easy option and throw it to first base? Before I make that decision, I have to make sure that I can catch the ball. But most importantly a glove must fit properly. As a catcher my mitt was my weapon, bigger and stronger than other position gloves, it had to be durable to take the pounding. First base is the only other member of the team that wears a mitt; the size helps to receive the ball which sometimes isn't always on target. The infielders and out- fields also have specialised gloves, smaller for the infield and gloves with longer fingers for the outfield, good for catching balls in the air. Last but not least is the pitcher, they tend to be big- ger gloves so that the ball and hand in the glove hides the grip of the pitch about to be thrown. And whether you are a pitcher or a batter, tech- nology has played a large part in the innovations of both. From the wooden bats of the 60s and 70s to the alu- minium ones of the 80s and 90s, it is the composite graphite ones today that are most preferred. And not forgetting the hel- met especially if you a young player no helmet no bat- ting''. Safety is of paramount importance, when you have a ball travelling at 125 to 130km from only 46 feet away. That ball can do some damage. From its origins of a centre of tightly wound string to a cork centre and finally to polyurethane it now adds to the overall experience and enjoyment of watching the game. The ball which is fluor- escent yellow with red stitch- ing is much easier for players and fans to see.
February 12th 2013
February 15th 2013