|Quentin and Brandice Balschmiter|
All the Information You Need Can Be Found at the Brakettes Official Website:
Photos can be found on the main site (raisedbygypsies.com) and then eventually on the Baseball sub-site as well (raisedbygypsies.com/baseball.html)
For all of the times that Quentin has gone to see baseball, he has only ever gone to see baseball. I got an email from the Bridgeport Bluefish about them playing a "Battle of the Sexes" game against the Stratford Brakettes and thought that would be interesting to go to, but then I looked further into the Brakettes as a team and thought why not go to one of their games as well. It's not really the fault of anyone, but I was always kind of raised with the mentality of athletes being male and cheerleaders being female (Though I suppose you could blame public schools) Ask me my favorite player in any sport and my answer will likely be a man. Then, women started not only doing what men were doing but some were even doing it better. (Shout out to Ronda Rousey)
As much as I want to expose Quentin to all sorts of music and sports which I may or may not be interested in (I don't want him to miss his chance to be the next ____ because I'm not a big fan of _____) it is also fair to say that he should try new things as much as I should and so not only was this Quentin's first fast-pitch softball game, it was also my first fast-pitch softball game. To explain it to Quentin was something like, "You know how we usually see boys play baseball? Do you want to go see girls play baseball?" to which he said yes because even if he doesn't sit still the whole time, he really likes baseball.
Based upon the Brakettes website I wasn't sure whether we could buy tickets in advance of the game or not and since it was the season opener I didn't know what the crowd would be like, so we decided to get there pretty early. It only took us about a half hour to forty minutes to get there, which was surprisingly fast, so it was around 5:30. The official site said gates open 90 minutes before start of game (Which would be 5:30) but everywhere else was saying 6pm. Still, they let us buy our tickets and go in without any problems as it seemed to be a rather casual affair.
On a side note: I had originally wanted to go to the game the following day- Sunday- because I felt like an 11 am game would be better for Quentin but with my work schedule we ended up going Saturday since I work Sundays and have Saturdays off. As it turns out, the games Sunday got rained out so we actually had pretty good luck thanks to my new job to go on Saturday instead.
There are a few different rules for fast-pitch softball than there are for baseball, but overall it has the same idea. In regular softball (or slow-pitch softball) the idea is to not really make the pitcher work so much as just pitch. I think of it like this: in baseball, the pitcher is your first line of defense because a strike out means the outfield can relax. In softball though it's more about the defense and less about the pitching. But fast-pitch softball is closer to baseball in the way that it does revolve around pitching still because as we saw during these games, strikeouts do occur.
Quentin was rather fascinated by the way the pitchers pitch as well. The wind up and release comes like when you first shoot a pinball out of its home and into the machine. I once watched Ron Darling explain how a pitcher didn't release the ball fast enough for the hitter to see his hand and kind of get an idea of where the pitch might be going- and how that was a good pitching move- and I think of this style of pitching in that way. It just feels like if pitched fast enough you have to be much more cautious as to when the ball is coming and where than in baseball.
So as a double header the games were seven innings each, but that's standard for fast-pitch softball and I'm not sure if they play single games or not but I'm fine with the double headers because the games tend to go quickly. Due to Quentin getting tired though, we ended up leaving during the third inning of the second game but the Brakettes were up 8-0 after defeating the Spirit 6-0 in the first game so we were pretty sure that there was no chance of the Spirit coming back to win (And they didn't; the Brakettes would eventually win 10-2)
We had purchased a fast-pitch softball which is pink and yellow from Dick's prior to the game for autographs, but when we got there they also had their own softballs out for sale so we bought one of those and used that instead because the money went to support the team. The Brakettes are currently without a corporate sponsor (if anyone is interested) and so having their logo on a softball might not be something available right now but if it was to ever happen down the line I'd be most excited. I also bought a hat, which Quentin kept taking from me and wearing as well. I think next time we'll have to get him his own because even though they aren't kid sizes you can adjust the velcro back to fit him pretty well enough.
Prior to the game we were also told that the Brakettes full roster wasn't there yet, so we were kind of curious as to what was going to happen with it being a double header in terms of pitching. Brandice Balschmiter stayed in the whole first game for the Brakettes and only allowed four hits- no runs- so needless to say she pitched a great game. It was something like... Let's just say she pitched better than I've seen some MLB pitchers pitch. Any time it looked like they might get into trouble, they got themselves out of it.
For what we saw of the second game, the Brakettes just kept putting down hit after hit and Brandice Balschmiter was actually on the first base side as a coach. In between the two games, we went over towards the Brakettes dug out where Quentin was able to get most all of the players to sign his softball. The first player we saw when we got over there (because we had stopped two of them leaving) was Brandice Balschmiter and Quentin said he wanted to go forward and I said we were going to stop and wait for her. There was this white fence of sorts up between the dug out and bleachers where a kids team was sitting during the game.
When we got to the white fence, I just kind of let Quentin go in there himself because one of the players on the other side said it was okay and the kids team was walking around getting autographs as well. Quentin went up to #2 first- Mandie Fishback- who was seated and when she asked Quentin for a high five he gave her a hug instead and, thus, a friendship was born. Later on before the start of Game 2, Quentin would fall down and cry and she came over to give him gummy bears which was really above and beyond what anyone should have done.
While Quentin walked around the dug out with the players and other kids though, Brandice Balschmiter helped him at one point to find the pitcher and catcher for the next game and then she came over and I started talking to her about the Bluefish. Endy Chavez is off the DL, but I still think the Brakettes have a good chance of winning the game. Brandice Balschmiter is in her 9th season now with the Brakettes and I got the sense from her that it'd just be great to sit down and pick her brain about everything fast-pitch softball and baseball as well. It'd make for a great podcast, I'd imagine.
Some of the rules are different, but the general idea is still the same and it's great to see these girls who can both hit, field and especially the pitching is great. I don't really know anything about the Lyon Spirit team but I can only assume perhaps they were missing some of their key players as well. I did enjoy that they had a merchandise table, the players were easily accessible for autographs (So, bring your kids) and there wasn't a bad seat in the house. My dad was also impressed by how the food was priced and he's usually the first to complain about how most places want $3 for a bottle of water.
The Brakettes are not back home until June 16th- a Thursday- but between that Friday and Saturday of the 17th and 18th when they are also home, we should likely be at one of those two games (probably Saturday) to see them take on Rock 18 Gold. And there are just a lot of fun activities coming up with the team (like the 70th Reunion Weekend) that are going to get us back to Stratford and, really, that's how you want to leave a lasting impression.