First of all, congratulations to the Crush Tidal Waves (CTW) 18U JS team for taking it all in the recent USA Softball (formerly ASA for you old die-hards) Chicago Metro. The Metro is always a tough tournament with strong teams, so winning it is definitely an accomplishment.
But it’s the way they won it this year that makes this story worth sharing, in my opinion. And since Life in the Fastpitch Lane is my blog, I get all the votes. No pretense here.
Basically, the CTW did it the hard way. First, it was a very hot and humid weekend in the Chicago area. Temperatures were in the mid-90s for most of it, and with the sun beating down it felt even hotter. I know, because I was outside for much of it.
CTW started out with two wins in pool play on Friday before beginning bracket play Saturday. They won their first game, then fell 5-2 in their second game of the day. That put them in the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament, with a long way to go to get back to the championship game.
Still, they persisted. The challenge now was to win 7 games in a row – two more on Saturday in the brutal heat, then three on Sunday to get into the championship game. After that, they’d have to face a team that hadn’t lost in bracket play and was well-rested as they waited for all the other teams to beat each other up. And, of course, they had to win twice.
The first of those two games was a real nail-biter, with CTW leaving it all on the field to gain a 3-2 victory. You would think they’d have felt pretty good by then, having taken the top team to the what-if game after all that. No one would have blamed them if they had come out a little flat for the final match-up.
But again, they persisted, and instead they came out strong and took the final game (and the trophy) 5-1. Not sure where they found the reserves of strength after all of that, but they did.
Battered but not broken, exhausted but elated, and probably ready to jump head first into the nearest swimming pool, the CTW 18U JS team came out victorious.
So it does go to show that if you’re determined enough, and persistent enough, and just not willing to lose you can come back to win a big tournament like that.
Congratulations to the players, coaches, parents and fans. But mostly to the players and coaches for never giving up.
(A special shout-out goes to Katie Armstrong, a long-time player for CTW and one of my pitching and hitting students. Savvy readers may recognize Katie from my vlog on hitting off a pitching machine, among other mentions. Katie did all this with a hip injury that will require surgery after the season, which has limited her pitching time this year. But I think you’ll agree she thought it was worth it.)
I imagine for a lot of the players this season is the end of their travel ball careers, and for those who aren’t playing in college it’s the end of their entire softball careers. But what a memory they gained!
It’s also the kind of story they can tell future employers who say “Tell me about a time when you faced incredible difficulties but managed to succeed.”
Over the last few years there has been a lot of debate over whether pitching machines are helpful or useless. Some say they’re not very realistic, while others realize it’s often the only means at their disposal to simulate a pitch coming in at full speed and distance.
Players also have their problems, saying they can’t hit off the machine, despite hitting well otherwise.
What I have found, however, is like anything else, the pitching machine is just a tool. It’s how you use it that’s the problem. This video goes into detail on where the issues arise and how to deal with them so you can incorporate machines into your practice – or if you’re a player, how you can get past the flaws.
This is my first vlog, by the way. In the future I’ll work on carrying a bit more friendly of a facial expression. 🙂