Growing up in the Midwest, many young boys and girls are exposed to softball or baseball at some point in their lives. Some decide they love the game and continue playing and others take a different path. For Caitlin Polzin, a senior from Elk Grove, Illinois, she knew softball was going to be a part of her life for a very long time.
Polzin was first exposed to the sport because her brother played on a travelling baseball team and her dad was the coach, so she often spent her weekends travelling with them and watching the games. She started her own career at the age of seven when she started playing for the Elk Grove in house league, where she made every All-Star team every year. Then, when she was 10 years old, her town started a travelling softball team and she began playing for the Amateur Softball Association of America. She soon really got into pitching and knew it was going to be her favorite position.
“Once I was 10 my dad started taking me to pitching clinics and I began to learn the correct mechanics which have stuck with me throughout my entire career,” Polzin said. “I started going to a pitching coach, Steve Ball, who was a well-known instructor down south. He has taught me everything that I know and still use today with pitching. “
Soon, Polzin switched to a more competitive ASA team known as the Oak Park Windmills. With this team was where her love of the game really developed and in 2004 they won the National Championship for 14 and under teams. She says without her father, though, none of this could have been possible.
“My dad is the reason I work so hard and how much time I dedicate to playing softball,” Polzin said. “Oak Park was a good half hour away from my house, and during the week it would take an hour to get to practices. My dad used to pick me up from school and drive me out to practices everyday and we wouldn’t get home until 8 at night. Then we would drive all over on the weekends to play in tournaments. I played softball year-round with maybe a month off for years, and those are the best times of my life.”
Polzin played for Conant High School, where they faced a very tough conference. She was a starting pitcher on varsity by her freshman year and she got all-conference honors her sophomore through senior years.
Polzin first committed to St. Mary’s College in Indiana before deciding to come to St. Ambrose, where she is majoring in secondary math education. When she signed on with the Fighting Bees she came as a utility player and thought her pitching days were over, but sophomore year she took to the mound again and has been there ever since.
“Once I started pitching again here at St. Ambrose I overcame my weaknesses and became more confident than ever,” Polzin said. “I love being under pressure now on the mound because it makes me that much more determined to help my teammates out of a tough situation.”
This season the team has gotten a makeover and had to overcome a lot of adversity. With a new coach and a small team of just 13 girls, many other teams in the conference were counting the Bees out, but Polzin said the small numbers did give them some advantages.
“I have never been part of a team that gets a long so well like we do here,” Polzin said. “The amazing times that I have had with my teammates here are the best memories of my college career. It helps us because we are getting twice as many reps fielding fly balls, and especially hitting, than we would have if we had a much larger team. Being such a small team makes us closer and get along better because we know that we cannot afford to lose any more teammates.”
Knowing this would be her final season as a Bee, Polzin practiced harder than ever in the offseason trying to prepare herself to give her team the best shot at winning games.
“During the off season I pitched a lot more than I ever have to prepare for this season knowing that I would see a lot more innings than in the past,” Polzin said.
So far it has been an up and down battle for the Bees, who are now 9-18 and 6-8 in the conference. Polzin still has hopes for the team to make it to the post season.
“I don’t want it to end. I wish I could keep playing for a few more years,” Polzin said. “I will never see competitive softball like this once I am out of college. However, this makes me realize that there is no next season for me so I have to give it all that I have and not hold back.”
Polzin will be student teaching next fall at Rockridge Jr. High and High School, and she hopes to get a job back at home either in a junior high or high school.
“I would love to get a coaching job as well, but my main focus is to get a teaching job. If I do not get a job, I hope to try and get into grad school and get my masters in special education,” Polzin said.