Back in 1999, Nike made a commercial starring pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine with the catchy tag line “Chicks dig the long ball”. The commercial depicted these now Hall of Fame pitchers working hard on their hitting skills to impress the women fans who “dug” baseball because of the home runs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ltD21rYWVw
The majority of baseball and softball fans still enjoy home runs and high scoring games. In high school and college baseball, high scoring games are still commonplace, even with the restricted power BBCOR bats. Sure, baseball games can still be dominated by pitchers, but not nearly as often as high school, college, and professional softball games. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching high school and college softball. However, I fear for the popularity of the sport due to the combination of overpowering pitching, and hitting mechanics that are more defensive than powerful. Most college softball teams started practicing for the spring season this week, so I thought I would take another shot at convincing these women and their hard-working coaches to change their hitting philosophies and the basic mechanics that are holding them back.
I attended a Big Ten softball game this past spring. After watching many high school games, I was ready to enjoy college softball at the highest level. During warm-ups, I observed athletic women with great fielding skills and pitchers who could really “bring it”. I didn’t see any batting practice, but I was hopeful the hitting would be similar to the fielding and pitching. It was not. Hitter after hitter came to the plate with confidence, but except for a handful of hitters, most looked overmatched. The results were many weak ground balls that were easy outs and fly balls that didn’t come close to threatening the relatively close home run fences. I was actually rooting for a ball to be hit with some authority, even if it was an out. I came away from the game disappointed, because hitting at the college level was not that much different than the dozens of high school games I had seen that season. This D1 college game was not an exception. It would be similar to the games I would see on television as the best teams in the country competed for the National Championship. It seemed like every team had a couple of hitters with baseball-like swings, but most games were still low scoring, with very few powerful hits. Many of the runs were scored by employing a strategy of contact hitting and aggressive base running or “small ball”.
It is commonly known that the popularity of college softball is not as broad-based as college baseball. I attribute this to the fact that softball is not as compelling to the average sports fan, primarily due to the lack of hitting. Specifically, the lack of hitters who employ power mechanics, like their male counterparts. As I have written before, some college softball programs have already come to this important conclusion and have made adjustments to the way they teach women to hit. The hitters in these programs just look different than the “traditional” high school and college hitters. Not only do they look different, they are fun to watch. I am hoping that more college programs will adopt power hitting mechanics. If this happens, the effects will surely trickle down to the high school level and youth softball. Coaches, parents, and hitting instructors will then be forced to break the hitting barriers that are still in place today.
Here are two earlier posts that I hope will help influence the “old school” softball community:
I hope one day Nike will make a commercial starring two professional softball pitchers who are envious of the hitters in their sport. The tag line I am longing to hear is “Dudes dig the long ball” when referring to softball hitters.