Sport

How Simone Wearne followed her parents and grandparents into baseball, and became a world champion. By Richard Cooke.
Credit: Supplied

Life’s a pitch: Simone Wearne, 37, baseball manager

My grandparents were heavily involved in the game, so I suppose like many kids when you’re growing up, if your parents are involved, you sort of follow them around.

I was born because of baseball. My mum and dad actually met through the sport. My mum was the scorer for her father’s team, and he coached my dad. I owe baseball a debt of gratitude for many reasons. But that’s one of them.

I used to get asked, “How’s the softball going?” “Are you going to the Olympics?” Obviously women’s baseball is not in the Olympics. We get a lot of opportunities to represent our country, though. I think the perception is changing a little bit now, girls are not necessarily pushed as hard in the direction of softball these days. There’s much more acceptance that girls can play both baseball and softball.

Because – not to put too fine a point on it – softball is basically a little bit broken isn’t it, like the sport has evolved so far for pitchers that for batters it’s almost unplayable?

I try to play club baseball but it’s difficult with my coaching commitments and work commitments. If I do get the chance, I love being out on the mound.

Baseball and cricket are very different. The approach and the strategy behind things are very different actually. It’s rare to see a bowler misplace one delivery, get hit for a six and they lose the game. In the bottom of the ninth inning with loaded bases, if you do leave one curve ball hanging and they hit it over the fence, the whole game changes. The strategy from a pitcher and catcher perspective is completely different from cricket.

I didn’t throw with great velocity, but I was very strategic and I could place the ball really well. Back in my day when I was playing, there was a huge emphasis on what type of pitcher you were. You were either a starter, a reliever, or a closer, but personally I think that’s a bit outmoded, and if you can compete and you can perform, you should be able to do that at any point in a game.

Forty games might seem like a lot, but for a baseball season that’s quite short. If we’re talking a semi-professional league out there, the Australian Baseball League, that’s what they play. Our top female players are playing a summer season of about 20 games. The Major League Baseball season has more than 160 games.

My greatest memory playing on the national team was winning the only gold medal we’ve won in women’s baseball. At the World Series event in Florida, which was 2002. I don’t think there’s anything better than getting to play America’s pastime in their country.

I think women’s baseball will cut through at some point. Women’s sport is continuing to evolve in many areas, and it’s not all that long ago there was no WNBA. There’s a professional league for women in Japan, and Japan are the biggest and best at the moment in women’s baseball, having won five out of the past five world cups.

People ask me if I wish I’d played women’s cricket, or netball, all the time. Everyone has their own ideas and expectations on what you feel is success and what you feel happiness is. I don’t regret playing another sport at all because I just love baseball so much.

It’s provided me everything. It’s been a platform for me to become the person I am, and get the job that I have and have the friends that I have. When people say, “If you had to play softball, you’d go to the Olympics and you’d have done this and do that”. I suppose that’s like everything in life. Maybe if you hadn’t turned left at those lights and had turned right, you might have ended up here. I never woke up one day and thought, “I want to play softball” or “I want to play cricket”. I just loved playing baseball.

This week’s highlights…

Horseracing: Turnbull Stakes Day

Saturday, 1st race 12.30pm (AEST), Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne

Rugby union: Wallabies v Argentina

Sunday, 9.40am (AEDT), Padre Ernesto Martearena Stadium, Salta, Argentina

• Motorsport: Bathurst 1000 – Supercars Championship, Race 25

Sunday, 11.10am (AEDT), Bathurst, NSW

• Netball: Constellation Cup – Australian Diamonds v New Zealand Silver Ferns

Sunday, 12pm (AEST), Brisbane Entertainment Centre; Wednesday, 6.30pm (AEST), Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre

Soccer: Matildas v England

Wednesday, 5am (AEDT), Craven Cottage, London

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 6, 2018 as "Life’s a pitch". Subscribe here.

Richard Cooke
is a journalist and writer for television. He is The Saturday Paper's sports editor.