I first saw college softball on TV five or six years ago when I was in college, and I’ve loved watching it ever since. I wish I had gone to some University of Georgia softball games when I was there, but I didn’t go to a single one. (I didn’t even go to nearly as many Georgia baseball games as I should have. I never went to a University of Michigan baseball or softball game.) I figure there are three main reasons I like watching women’s softball: it’s similar to baseball, so it’s a great sport for that reason; its differences with baseball make it interesting and novel enough to intrigue me; and softball players in general are extremely hot.
The main difference between the games of softball and baseball is the pitching. Yes, there are differences in substitution rules, the infield dimensions, the size of the ball, and the (in)ability of runners to lead off from bases. But pitching, being the most important part of both baseball and softball, constitutes the biggest difference, at least to someone watching the game. There is no pitching mound, which is the cause and/or result of the underhand windmill delivery that softball pitchers must use. The pitch comes in at a different angle, and in fact the best softball pitchers are experts at a pitch that doesn’t exist in baseball, the “rise ball.” Women are able to pitch faster than they would on a baseball field because the lack of a downward-sloping mound allows them to use that underhand motion, which is very hard to do from a mound. (If you’re good at it, the underhand-windmill motion allows you to throw faster than pitching overhand because swinging underhand is the natural motion of the shoulder, whereas throwing overhand goes against the grain of the shoulder and brings your arm a little bit closer to injury with each pitch. I heard that the fastest pitch ever thrown with a baseball was 114 mph, by the tragically under-appreciated Eddie Feigner, who pitched underhand. In case you’re wondering, the reason baseball pitchers throw overhand is that it allows them to throw the ball with a downward trajectory and to throw sinking pitches better, which provide a tremendous advantage over extra velocity. Second, the softball windmill motion precludes pitching from the stretch, which is a necessity in baseball.)
I love watching college softball pitchers pitch. It is poetry in motion, to me. It is a beautiful fusion of power and grace that has the rare quality of making these often gorgeous ladies even more attractive. Additionally, the all-too-rare hitting and fielding skills possessed by softball-playing girls only provides extra fuel for my infatuation with them.
My experience playing slow-pitch softball in intramural and city leagues—which, I won’t lie, has included more than a little bit of frustration at the paucity of women with softball skillz—has only augmented my attraction to those rare and special girls who have them. I have some vague memories of a scene from a movie or TV show where one lawyer gets incredibly turned on by his opponent’s sound legal argument and passionate (even arrogant) defense of her position, because someone who knows their stuff and can argue with the best of them is a turn-on to most lawyers. Same with a world-class pianist or a magnificent surgeon or a woman who can fix your car in a cinch. A pretty girl who plays softball with smooth confidence, speed, strength, and grace is like a dancer performing a beautiful ballet or a figure skater executing a gold-medal routine. For this baseball player, this applies more to softball players than to any other athletes, but I know millions of men share a similar feeling. I think about this quite frequently when I’m playing softball in my co-ed leagues with and against women who are really good.
These thoughts were prompted by the Women’s College World Series, which ended last night. Washington beat Florida in the championship round, two games to none. I recall Stacy Nuveman, former UCLA pitcher and current ESPN softball analyst (who probably has a job at ESPN for two weeks of the year), predicting before the tournament started that Washington would win it. I had just caught Georgia vs. Ohio State on ESPN purely by chance two Saturdays ago, and after Georgia defeated Ohio State to win a spot in the World Series tournament, ESPN cut back to the studio for highlights and analysis, and Nuveman picked Washington. She said she wasn’t as confident about that prediction as she had been about previous ones, but Washington’s pitching and their attitude and determination made them her favorite. Me, I’m just happy Florida lost.
By “Washington’s pitching” she meant Danielle Lawrie, NCAA softball player of the year. The main problem with college softball is that one team can ride one pitcher for almost every game of the postseason. Their ace will pitch both games of a doubleheader, start games two days in a row, or more. They are able to do this because the underhand motion of softball pitching doesn’t really hurt the arm. This is absolutely unheard of and would be horribly unethical in baseball at any level because of the permanent damage it would do to the arm.
I heard a little about the University of Washington’s ace last week before I saw her pitch, against Georgia in the WCWS semifinals. (Apparently her name is pronounced like “lorry” since she’s Canadian, eh.) The second-best pitcher in the nation was Stacey Nelson, Florida’s ace. If I weren’t constitutionally incapable of being attracted to a Florida Gator, I would note that she is even hotter than Lawrie, and most of the other girls in the tournament, for that matter. Girls who are great at softball and are pretty to boot are almost too much for me to handle.
Naturally, Nelson and Lawrie squared off in both games of the best-of-3 series. It must suck to be the second-best pitcher on a softball team because your chances to pitch in the postseason will be few and far between! You might only be a very good pitcher, but if you’re behind someone who’s great, you’re riding the pine. I guess it’s better to win a championship from the bench than lose while playing a lot, but I don’t know… Danielle Lawrie’s teammates aren’t complaining, I know that.
The first time I saw her pitch, my thought process was: 1. Wow, that’s fast. 2. Wow, that’s hot. She throws faster than most pitchers, with a fastball of 66–68 mph. While I was throwing that fast at the age of 14, it is extremely fast for college softball, where the distance from pitching rubber to home plate is a mere 43 feet. That gives hitters the equivalent reaction time of a 92–95 mph pitch in baseball. (As a comparison, when I played for my traveling teams at age 13 and 14, our pitching distance was 54 feet most of the time, except in AAU tournaments, which use the Major League distance of 60 feet and 6 inches.) You can see Lawrie in this short highlight video of Washington’s victory over Florida in the final round. She has a wicked change-up that is made even nastier by her scorching fastball. I couldn’t hit that—back when I was playing baseball.
She and all those other cute girls who play college softball just exude sexiness from every pore. Gorgeous, athletic, experts at the second-best sport there is…
I’ll be in my bunk.