Once upon a time, boys vs. girls was an accepted way of choosing up teams on the playground. Depending on the age and the game, sometimes the boys won and others, the girls. We used to play all kinds of games, Four Square, Red Rover, Kick the Can, and sometimes softball or football.
Somewhere in every young boy’s life they get to learn a hard lesson about how capable the girls are of kicking their butts on the playground. Mine came when I was in fifth grade. I switched schools and started to attend Manitoba Elementary School. I was a bigger-than-average fifth grader and was pretty good at holding my own in playground athletics.
I was pretty sure I was one of the best players when it came time to choose teams for Intramural softball when I learned that having a preconceived notion about what a great athlete looked like. Let’s just say I got hit square in the eyes the first day of playground softball.
It was time to pick teams. We all lined up and waited to be picked. There was a guy I knew was a good player. His name was Paul Bartlett, and he was the first pick. I was a little angry, but I figured no big deal, I’m next. I was already taking my first step toward my team when something happened, we pick Sandy!
WHAT? That’s right, the second pick was a girl! What in the world was going on? So now I’m flat out pi$$@d off. Finally, I get picked third, but I was beside myself with anger and dismay.
Then we started playing the games and over the next couple weeks I had a come-to-Jesus moment because something was pretty clear. Sandy was not only better than me, she was the best athlete in our school and she should have been upset that she wasn’t the first pick.
Let me paint a picture for you. This is playground softball on an asphalt playground with a rubber coated softball. We played one pitch, slow pitch, and you could count on getting 3 or 4 turns to hit every game. The first time we played against Sandy’s team I hit a bomb that I was sure was going to roll forever, if it ever hit the ground, a home run, of course. But it never hit the ground because out of nowhere here comes Sandy diving like Mike Trout to make the best catch I have ever seen, ON THE ASPHALT!
Let’s just say that I was convinced. Sandy was way better than me and I just had to live with it. I begrudgingly gave her her due, but we were in different classes and never really got to know each other very well. We went off to middle school and I’d never see her again.
Or so I thought!
Move ahead about 15 years. My wife played and I coached pretty serious slow-pitch softball. We won the USSSA Slow-Pitch Class B National Championship one year and had assembled a pretty good team. My wife, Terry, had a couple pretty good friends on the team and we would hang out pretty regularly. One of our best players was a woman named Sandy Hutkowski, who is to this day, one of the best softball players I have ever seen, and she and Terry had become very good friends.
One night we are heading out to dinner and driving down Forest Home Avenue heading towards downtown Milwaukee when we passed by Manitoba Elementary School. In passing, I mention that I went to school there for a couple of years. Sandy responds that she went there her entire elementary career.
That was you?!?!?! You were the crazy chick who would dive on the asphalt to catch balls? You were the one who hit so many bombs? You were the one who stole my spot at the top of the playground pyramid? That. Was. You?
The person who showed me that women can do any damn thing they put their minds to!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.