Life Lessons Learned on the Mound

Life Lessons Learned on the Mound

By Susan Neuhalfen

Girls softball has been gaining popularity as one of the up and coming sports to watch. It has been an Olympic sport since 1996 and many girls are competing heavily for the few college softball scholarships available to them. So when one of Lantana’s own is chosen as one of only six pitchers to represent Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico in the 2016 Future All-American Game Championship in Orlando this summer, it’s only natural to be Lantana-proud.

Lauren Bates, who just finished her 8th grade year at Harpool Middle School, has been playing softball since she was 8 years old. At first she really enjoyed hitting and playing various positions. Then a coach pulled her parents aside and expressed an interest in her learning to pitch.

“From day one, she could hit the ball and she’s been a hitter ever since,” said Jeanna Bates, Lauren’s mom. “Her dad was her first coach and he’s the one who really helped her learn how to pitch.”

In girls’ softball, the pitch is a “windmill windup” where the pitcher circles the arm back for momentum to release an underhand pitch to the batter. It’s hardly a simple move and takes a great deal of control to get it right. At first Lauren said her pitching was slow and kind of wild, but her dad was right there to help.

“We would watch videos on how to pitch and then we’d go to the cul-de-sac on our street and practice,” said Lauren’s dad, Dan. “Turned out she was pretty good at it so we continued down that path.”

Four years later she’s the one of the fastest pitchers, if not the fastest in her age group, averaging 56mph, which puts her at a high school and nearly collegiate level.

Lauren will be one of three pitchers on the Midwest 13U American Team. She tried out in McKinney along with hundreds of other girls but didn’t find out that she’d made the team until three months later, when it was announced on ESPN.

The tournament will be held at the end of July at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando. It is a weeklong tournament with the best of the best softball players from all over the country participating. She won’t actually meet her teammates or begin practicing with them until she gets there.

In the meantime, she keeps busy with her select team, Texas Christian Athletes, practicing daily and traveling for tournaments on weekends. Even her older sister, Julia, travels with them to cheer her on.

“It’s a blessing that she’s been given this opportunity and I’m just thankful that she’s having fun,” said Jeanna. “She’s so diligent and she takes responsibility for herself. It’s been fun to see all of the hard work come through.”

Her dad has told her for years that softball is a microcosm of life; you get what you put into it and it opens new doors. Lauren said that she really understands what he is saying now and that she has learned a lot from softball.

“I’ve learned that it takes time, energy and hard work and in the end, it’s worth it,” she said. “I apply it to everything now, including homework and tests.”

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