The Need For Speed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 7, 1999

At first glance, both fast-pitch softball and slow-pitch softball look relatively the same.

Saturday, August 07, 1999

At first glance, both fast-pitch softball and slow-pitch softball look relatively the same.

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Both are played with nine players on the field.

Both are played with the same infield dimensions – 60 feet between bases and 46 feet from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.

Both are seven-inning games played with the same rules, with a few exceptions.

Both are played with the same type of gloves, aluminum bats and oversized balls.

But ask any fast-pitch softball player which type of softball is better, you can expect an answer faster than some of hard-throwing flame throwing hurlers on display at Todd Park this weekend.

"Slow pitch is for guys who are overweight and aren’t good enough to play fast-pitch," said 18-year-old Jake Volkart of the Ostrander Images. "The just no competition. Anyone can play slow-pitch."

"You can just put slow-pitch sucks in the article," said Ben Mensink a pitcher for the Images.

The images were one of 12 fast-pitch teams in Austin this weekend for the American Softball Association’s men’s 23-and-under fast-pitch national championship.

The Ostrander squad, which was an combination of three different fast-pitch teams from the small Minnesota community just above the Iowa border, traveled the least distance to get to the tournament, while the Rez Men Players came the farthest distance, traveling from San Diego, Calif. Other teams in the two-day tournament that was originally scheduled for Florida, were from Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

Austin was also the site for the boys’ 18-and-under fast-pitch national championship tournament, which showcased five teams from the Midwest region. The boys’ tournament featured teams from Michigan, Wisconsin, South Dakota and two from Minnesota.

Fast-pitch players don’t even acknowledge any similarities between their game and the slower version, but would rather compare baseball to fast-pitch softball.

"You really have to be on your toes to play fast-pitch because everything is so much closer," Volkart said. "It’s more of a placement game. You can slap bunt here but you can’t get away with that in baseball."

"You can almost play two games of fast-pitch in the same time it takes to play a game of baseball," said Darrell Thorson, head coach of Images. "It’s a much quicker game."

"There’s a lot more hit-and-run situations and guys stealing bases," Thorson added.

Josh Diemer, a first baseman for the Images who recently finished playing with the Austin American Legion baseball team, said he didn’t have a preference between playing baseball and fast-pitch.

"Whatever one I’m playing at the time," Diemer responded when asked which sport he liked better. "I don’t like one more than the other. Their both pretty much the same."

The ability to stealing bases and the importance of good pitching are the more obvious differences between fast-pitch and its slower cousin.

"It’s more interesting to watch because there’s more things happening," Thorson said.