For the past 16 years, Larry Hineline has been pitching in fast-pitch softball leagues. And since 1992, he has dedicated his time to teaching his daughter Elizabeth, now 9, how to pitch.
Never did Hineline think Elizabeth's windmill style was too fast.
Never did Hineline think that Elizabeth would be barred from pitching in an 8-10 girls fast-pitch softball league in Baltimore.
"I taught her how to pitch. She has an excellent form and she's not overpowering," said Hineline. "I don't understand. If they called this a slow-pitch league, it would be fine, but it's not."
Elizabeth struck out an average of two batters per inning in leading her team to a 6-1 record. And she never hit a batter. Then league officials said she could no longer pitch. After she moved to shortstop, the team finished 7-3.
"I was really sad cause I worked two whole years on my pitching, and I finally found a league I could pitch on," she said. "Then midseason, they tell me I can't pitch. It makes me really, really mad."
Fast-pitch indicates that the ball can be pitched either in a windmill or a sling-shot fashion.
Lee Eagan, commissioner of softball for the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, said the rules for this league were made last year and representatives from each of the five CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) teams involved "agreed" that windmill pitching would not be allowed in this fast-pitch league.
"The coaches wanted to outlaw windmill pitching because more velocity is put into the pitch," said Eagan. "They're concerned with the girls' safety."
However, Chris Derkacz, coach of the team Elizabeth played on, said he cannot remember such a rule. In the rules distributed before the season began, the only reference to pitching was: "Pitchers must start to pitch with one foot on the rubber."
"Last year we could windmill. Now we can't," said Derkacz, who has been coaching in the CYO league for four years. "I don't understand. To stop Liz midseason is unfair. She's such an exceptional player."
Richard Trautwein, the deputy umpire in chief for city softball, said no rule states a pitcher can't throw the ball as fast or as hard as possible in a fast-pitch league.
"As far as as the umpires are concerned, if she has one foot on the mound and meets all other requirements, then it's a legal pitch. Other umpires didn't see anything wrong with her pitching. The only thing is she pitches in a windmill style," he said.
Michael Dugan, a coach from an opposing team, said the league's rules had been spelled out from the beginning, and if anyone was to blame, it would be Derkacz.
"I don't think it's fair to the little girl because her coach didn't attend the mandatory meeting in early March," he said. "He should have been there for the meeting. He should have expressed his feelings toward the matter. He's the villain in this incident."
Eagan said that neglecting to put "no windmill pitching" in the rules handed out before the season was "an error of omission." He said that Elizabeth was never asked to stop pitching, just to stop windmill pitching.
The windmill is the same fast-pitch motion her father had been using since 1978 and the only one he had taught Elizabeth.
"Our only recourse is taking her somewhere else to pitch," said Hineline. "I live in the city and pay taxes here. I don't see why I should have to travel to Anne Arundel County for my daughter to play softball."