Taking “soft” out of softball

downloadShe’s on her toes, challenging the opposing team. Suddenly, she’s sprinting down the line. Voices in the dugout call out encouragement. The thumping of her steps grows louder as she nears home plate. The crowd is on their feet. The ball comes flying behind her, thrown desperately by the opposing team. She springs forward, sliding into the plate, the ball just milliseconds away from the catcher’s glove. The umpire shouts, “Safe!” with arms flung wide. The crowd, the atmosphere of the game, is electrifying.

This past season, Granada Hills Charter High School’s (GHC) Junior Varsity softball team won League Champions and Varsity took six games in league, scoring a total of eight home runs and stealing 28 bases.

Softball is typically overlooked as a “girl’s sport,” since there are different mechanics from baseball in terms of equipment, pitching and the field setup. Softball pitching consists of a windmill movement and is pitched underhand, which is different than the overhand pitch used in baseball.

“Everyone watches a baseball game and see the field. In softball, the base-to-base distance is closer than baseball. Meaning the ball coming off the bat is a lot faster because of how close the players are,” junior Alessandra Heredia said.

Because the field setup is more compact, softball players must react quicker. These girls need to develop the skills of reading a ball and predicting the direction it will be hit. Some think that since a softball is yellow, it is easier to spot. This is not necessarily true, as the color makes the ball easier to lose in the sun or the lights.

“Softball is a lot harder since there is less room for error. In most cases, it is a sport of failure. You’re gonna make more outs and more errors, and have less success than most sports. If you make an error, you might not get another ground ball and if you strike out, you have to wait two or three innings to get an opportunity to come back. What softball teaches these girls is mental toughness,” softball coach Ivan Garcia said.

As any other sport, there is intense training that goes into the sport to work on the skills needed to play ball. The girls in softball at GHC show incredible passion in their practices, and it shows in every game. Their commitment ranges from dedicating their free time on school breaks to practice to losing their voices from cheering on teammates.

“When we cheer on other teammates, the hype is the key, and if we don’t have the energy then we won’t perform well. Softball is really competitive and takes a lot of hard work. We put in the hard work and it’s really different from other sports; I have to get on base for my teammates to score runs,” junior Cristabelle Alvarado said.

The players are under a lot of pressure during games, each passing second feeling longer than the last, debating whether it is the right time to steal the base. Even after losing a game, the girls are unfazed. The coaches use positive reinforcement and reflect on their mistakes to improve for the next game. Coach Garcia emphasizes the idea of learning from their errors so they do not repeat them later.

“These girls continue to persevere, no matter what’s in front of them,” Coach Garcia said.

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