I realize at this time of year we’re thinking of snowballs, not softballs. But, if we’re going to revive girls’ softball in Forest Park, we need to start talking about it now. I recently discussed this with a former Forest Park softball player, Abby Hanrahan, who went on to pitch her team to the college national championship.
Abby’s softball glory days began when she was a member of the Unknowns. Who can forget their Day Glow lime green uniforms? This was back in the heyday of softball when we had four teams in Forest Park.
I had the privilege of coaching this fireballing windmill pitcher. Abby’s fastball intimidated batters to the point that they rarely swung. Back then she was still searching for the strike zone and releasing a few “crazies.” So, I endured many stomach churning walks.
By the time she was pitching for Ithaca College, Abby had adjusted her radar and release point and was pounding the strike zone. In 2002, Abby won six consecutive games to lead her tiny college to the Division III championship.
Armed with a degree in Communication, Abby hoped to break into broadcasting but the field was too crowded. She flirted with becoming a professional golfer. She could not endure the hours of lonely practice, though, needed to reach the professional level.
However, her heart remained in sports. Abby landed seasonal jobs at Wrigley Field and Soldier Field. Four months ago, she returned to her softball roots and launched Practice Pro, LLC. Abby actually comes to back yards to instruct girls in all aspects of softball. She also conducts clinics to teach groups how to hit, field and pitch.
Abby teaches parents the same techniques she is using, so they can reinforce these skills when she’s not there. She would also like to teach parents the proper “car talk” to use after games, as negative comments can be harmful. For example, blaming a loss on a teammate’s mistake, a blown call, or a coach’s decision is not helpful. Recalling her career in Forest Park, Abby said, “I’m lucky my parents got it.”
Abby is definitely interested in reviving softball in her hometown. She has such great memories of playing alongside her friends at the Park. She wants the girls growing up now to experience that camaraderie. Presently, Forest Park girls can only get their softball fix in River Forest, where the fees are less affordable.
Recreation Supervisor Rachell Entler is intrigued with the idea of getting Abby involved. “Good female athlete role models have a positive impact on communities. I think Abby would be a welcome addition for bringing softball back to Forest Park.”
If parents and the Park district can get behind this, we could once again see girls in lime green uniforms having a ball at the Park.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.