What smashes glass ceilings? Hard, accurate throws.

November 13, 2012 — Sports

Photo by Tracy Maple

Head softball coach Debby Day has more than the ordinary desire to win. She believes that she has problems, “seriously – can’t-go-shoot-baskets-with-my-friends problems.” Competitive is not the word. In fact, there is no single word for it. Day is “don’t-lose-at-Candyland-to-my-daughter-when-she-was-3-years-old competitive. But that’s made me who I am as a pitcher.”

In August, Day became the first woman to pitch a winning game at the NAFA (North American Fastpitch Association) World Series, the largest event in men’s softball. Actually, she won three games as a starter at the “A” tournament in Topeka, Kan., including a two-hit shutout, with her team Balboa Fastpitch. Day played professional softball in Japan, and she pitched the University of Arizona women’s team to the 1991 national championship.

Her “men’s career” started 15 years ago when local women’s league competition wasn’t satisfying for her and a teammate’s boyfriend asked her to join his team. From the beginning, it was a hard adjustment for some of the boys. Nobody threw fruit at her, but she has endured name-calling and carefully aimed verbal digs, as the first woman at many a tournament.

“Guys joke differently than girls, and there’s always a little bit of truth behind their joking,” she explained. Not to mention the players who balk. Up to the night before the NAFA series began, a few of the younger men in their 20s were “saying they weren’t going to play against us if there were girls out there.” Day also plays on a 40-and-over team, where the ball players are far more likely to send photos of her to their daughters.

The key to it all is to perform, she says, “hitting the catcher exactly where they want it, every time” – because “winning silences critics.”

“I’m a little fiery when I play. I tell my [Regals] girls, ‘Don’t come watch me,’ because I’d probably get in trouble,” Day said, cracking up. “They’d make me run, I think.”