Dave Berghammer remains deeply interested in a sport in which interest has waned.
For nearly 30 years, the Wisconsin native has pitched fastpitch softball, the last seven years in Spokane.
It’s a sport that got him a job and a ton of satisfaction. But fastpitch is not as popular as it once was.
“It used to be a hot item but there is no fastpitch anymore,” said Berghammer. “Unless youth get interested, I don’t see it getting any better.”
Spokane Fastpitch, the team on which he plays, is a lonely reminder of the sport which was once Spokane’s dominant recreational softball form.
But for males it has given way to modified and slowpitch, ironically at a time when the female version of fastpitch is growing in popularity.
Berghammer cites a number of reasons. There is no promotion, he said, by the arm of Spokane Metro Softball Association.
“A fair amount of players want to pitch,” Berghammer said. “But everyone gloms onto one team and pretty soon no one wants to play you. If competition is not somewhat even, they get out.”
Learning to pitch takes time, as does learning to hit a windmill hurler. Young athletes don’t have the patience to stick with it.
“And if they are still into baseball, there are senior leagues,” said Berghammer. “Unlike the girls, there are no feeder softball leagues.”
Through boom times and bust, Berghammer, 44, has maintained his love of the game in which a pitcher gets to strike someone out once in a while.
He began as a 15-year-old in Athens, Wis., a town of 700 people. He played on a team where only three players were old enough to drive and transport the others to games.
“I played the game when you used wood bats, there was no designated hitter and you didn’t wear a helmet. That’s how far back I go,” he said.
Berghammer displayed some pitching ability, “goofed around with it on my own” and developed a pitching repertoire that has seen him through 300 games and a couple of 20-win seasons. He once struck out three batters on nine pitches and three years ago fanned a career high 15 batters in a game.
“Softball is how I got my job,” said the former production manager for SNE/Crestline. “I knew a person there who played ball. I remind my wife of that.”
His job took him to California and eventually to Spokane where he ran across a fastpitch game at Liberty Park while scouting out a home. He auditioned in his street clothes and was invited to play. He called his wife, Jan, and said, “The good news is I’m on a fastpitch team. The bad news is we have no house yet.”
SNE closed its Spokane plant and Berghammer is now with Huntwood, an Spokane Industrial Park cabinet maker.
Without local competition, Spokane Fastpitch has found its games in Oregon, Montana and Yakima, placing in the top four of four tournaments.
Twice, Berghammer, who has a 6-2 season record, has been named to all-tournament teams.
“Sometimes the competition is not so good and they let you get away with things,” he said of his pitching.
Later this month, he and his teammates will travel to Salt Lake City for national competition.
It’s a game he yet enjoys. When he quits enjoying it is the time he’ll cease to play.
“I’m not a golfer and I don’t hunt or fish,” Berghammer said. “Softball keeps me busy.”
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