Redemption with a Riseball

When a coach is more than a coach

When I think about who has helped me not only succeed in sports but in life as well, I obviously think about my parents. But there is another person who I think about every time, who not only made me the pitcher I am but the person I am today. That person is my pitching coach, Rick Plangger.

Rick has been in my life for over seven years. I met him my freshman year of high school when I moved back to Michigan and he taught me how to throw the riseball—my best pitch to this day. Going to pitch often felt like a job, but when it was with Rick it was never a chore to me. He is the funniest person I know and made me love the game again.

Many athletes can agree with me when I say the transition from high school to college is difficult. You go from being the best on your team to a team where everyone is just as good, if not better. I felt lost. After several different coaches and pitching coaches, I felt even more lost in the sea of new recruits, different pitching mechanics and new motions.

I was told I was too skinny to throw hard. I was told that hitters would not swing at my riseball at this level. It was true, I was not a shred of what I used to be. In an effort to earn more playing time, I changed my motion, stopped throwing the riseball and tried to gain weight. For the first time in my life I became an athlete that I did not recognize.

After not throwing much my junior season, I was ready to throw in the towel. I was done. I had accepted the fact that my best years of my softball career were in high school. This was when I got a text from Rick that said, “How is your summer going?”

I knew he was referring to summer ball but I didn’t want to talk about it, and was frankly embarrassed about how bad I had been pitching. Instead, I told him about my internship. Rick then asked me how my pitching was going. I told him not well, about how my size was getting in my way and how I felt as if I were a “lost cause”.

Rick responded, telling me that I was “totally wrong” and said it was “just the opposite,” and he told me to come see him that week. I was hesitant, but for the first time in three years I felt a small twinge of hope that I was able to be a good pitcher again.

I felt like a freshman in high school again going back to Rick’s to pitch. We started from the beginning. I kept going back to him all summer. After each session I not only felt better but faster and more in control. I was having fun playing softball again. I didn’t dread pitching anymore.

Rick made me enjoy the game again. He was the only person who never told me I was too skinny to throw hard. Instead, he told me how strong my legs were and how my long skinny arms were perfect for whip. I was laughing more and was excited about picking up the yellow ball each pitching session. I took pride in watching my catcher miss the pitches I threw because they were moving again.

All athletes have a coach that has impacted them the most in their life. The one that made them love the game in the first place, or find it again when that love disappeared. There’s always the one that believed in them when no one else did. I have been blessed to have multiple amazing coaches throughout high school and college, but for me, that standout person was Rick Plangger.

Rick helped me in more ways than one. He is the only coach who has stuck by me not only throughout high school but in college as well. He never judged me or got mad when I came back throwing completely different than how he taught me. He made me laugh when I was depressed about how bad I was. He gave me hope. And for that, I am forever thankful for Rick Plangger and am lucky to have him by my side through my last year of softball.

Thank you so much, Rick.