Softball's Quirky, Time Honored Traditions
By Steve Mack
TEMPE, Ariz – Arizona State’s Kayla Ketchum is introduced before a big game. Like almost every softball series she has played in since arriving in Tempe from Gary, Indiana, she runs out to home plate, then takes her spot as the second player is introduced. Then, all the craziness starts.
As the Sun Devils are introduced, they head to home plate, and then run down the third base line giving each other the strangest high fives you have ever seen. Truth is they aren’t really high fives; more like high lows, dance moves, cute little handshakes, and whatever else they can get away with when their coach isn’t looking. The zaniness is one of the time honored traditions of collegiate softball.
This day, Ketchum has it going on. In one sequence, she gives one of her teammates a little bump and jump. The next player gets the secret squirrel handshake – slap the front, then the back, then a little touch of the fingertips. Next up is a dance move, perfectly performed by both players. The list goes on and on. But, these are not simple introductory moves. This is Dancing with the Stars…Literally.
After seeing all this talent on the field, I couldn’t resist. So, I caught up with Ketchum and Arizona State’s Hilary Bach in head coach Clint Myers’ office. I had to find out what was up with all the fuss over the introductions.
“It is a time honored tradition,” said the junior Ketchum. “This stuff has been going on since I began playing softball.”
The truth is women’s collegiate softball is unlike most collegiate sports. You won’t see basketball players chanting organized cheers during a game any time soon. You may see USC football players sing to their crowd after the game, but it’s safe to say you won’t see them singing to each other during a game any time soon.
Softball, though, is a different animal. They not only dance and sing and bump during introductions, they sing and chant throughout the entire game. It happens at Cal; and at UCLA; at Oregon; and Washington too.
“It’s been going on forever,” said Bach.
One thing that strikes you when you see it for the first time is how detailed the routines are and how different they are for each player. As it turns out, this is a well-oiled machine, just like the No. 5 ranked Sun Devils softball team.
“It’s different for each player,” says Ketchum. “We put the routine together based on their personalities, what their interests are. The routine stays with them the whole career and it is different for each player. I do something different with Hilary than the other girls do.”
Sounds like softball players spend as much time planning their intro dance moves as they do practicing hitting.
When asked what coach Myers thinks about all this, Ketchum smiles and says, “Coach thinks the introductions take too long.”
You might think like most coaches probably think – that the hand slapping, dancing, cute little moves are a distraction. Not so says Bach.
“It’s fun for us to do it,” said the All-American pitcher. “The girls enjoy it and it keeps us all in the game.”
Whatever the case, these little routines aren’t going away any time soon.
“It is one of the traditions of softball,” says Bach. “One that separates us from other sports.”