What is it like to be a rookie on the U.S. national softball team? For Caitlin Lowe, it meant having a bucket of balls hand-cuffed to her arm so she had to carry it around all day. For Jessica Mendoza, it meant finding her jersey in the toilet with a Baby Ruth bar and pineapple juice. For national team newcomer Jennie Ritter, it means something a little more practicalgetting in tune with two new catchers in three short weeks.
We have such a short time to get to know each other but theyve been both my roommates the past two weeks. Weve had a chance to sit and talk and I really like them, they know what theyre doing; they are really smart.
The last time Ritter stepped on the field at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium she led Michigan to the Womens College World Series title in 2005. I drove in and it brought back a lot of memories. I started thinking about the team and how great it was. Im hoping to continue the success.
One reason for her collegiate success was how closely she worked with her battery-mate, Becky Marx. I think with catchers, you have a serious relationship, explains Ritter. To be on the same wave length and understand each other--beyond just pitches--its kind of a big thing.
Most pitchers have a more of a struggle getting into a rhythm with catchers, but this was not the case for Ritter. Ritter and Marx had a head-start on their relationship having played together prior to college. It was cool catching for her because we would go an entire game and she would never shake off a pitch because she agreed with all of them, Marx shared. She wasnt a pitcher and I was the catcher--we had a good partnership and worked as a unit.
Now Ritter turns her attention to the World Cup of Softball where she is part of the most dominating pitching staff in international softball. When asked if she felt pressure as part of such a competitive rotation she replied, My thing right now is to control what I can control. Not be so worried what the team thinks or what the coaches think or what all the fans are hoping. My goal is to shut them down.
Ritter hasnt avoided the rookie pranks entirely. Laura Berg, the team prankster, slapped her on the shoulder and asked how her workout went. Thinking Berg was genuinely interested in how she was doing, Ritter later found out that Berg was more interested in putting a luggage tag on her back.
In the end, Ritter is here to get her job done and is happy and honored to be doing it. One of the great things about this team is that while there are rookies and veterans, theres not necessarily a big difference between them. Everyone on this team deserves to be here.