April 6, 2007

Pigtailed ace touches base on success

Last season, Petra Wade tossed 192.0 innings and posted a 19–9 record with a 1.46 ERA, leading the Maroons into NCAAs in her newly assumed role as the squad’s ace. Now a fourth-year, Wade talks about her work on the mound, the creation of the pigtail mullet, and the 19th-ranked Maroons’ ongoing battle with laundry.

Chicago Maroon: When did you start pitching?

Petra Wade: I started pitching when I was eight years old. I was supposed to [grow to] be five-foot-ten, so everyone was like, “She’s going to be an amazing pitcher. We have to make her a pitcher.” So I started taking lessons then.

My parents were always big into getting me to play a bunch of sports and to try everything out. I did gymnastics, and to this day I can’t do a somersault. I did soccer, and I’m not good. They just made me a goalie because I could throw the ball down the field. But I was good at softball.

CM: What’s in your repertoire?

PW: I throw a rise, a curve, a screwball, a changeup, and what’s called a “clip.” It’s essentially a changeup, but it’s a little bit quicker. I have a drop ball that I hate to throw. [Assistant coach] Kelly [Ostler] has a rule that if the count’s ever 0–2, I’m not allowed to throw a strike. She always calls a ball. If I ever screw up and throw a strike on that count, she’ll call a drop ball to get me back because she knows I hate throwing it.

CM: But no fastball?

PW: For some reason, my fastball is not my fastest pitch, and it’s not my most accurate pitch. Probably starting like at the beginning of high school, finally when I was old enough to have a say in what I wanted to throw, I was like “I am absolutely never throwing a fastball, ever.” If I need a strike, Kelly will call a riseball or something, but never a fastball.

CM: Do you have a favorite pitch?

PW: Probably my screwball, which I actually added just last winter. It’s thrown exactly like my riseball, except I don’t have to get my weight back, so it’s more of a forward-leaning pitch. But it’s the same grip, same spin, so it’s a lot easier for me and has actually been one of the more successful pitches.

CM: There’s been some debate over what to call your hairstyle, but it seems to have come down to either pigtails or pigbuns. Any way you can help settle the argument?

PW: I chopped all my hair off when I got to college, cut it really short. Everyone makes fun of it, but there’s no way to get it up and out of my face and be able to wear a visor without it. I know it looks ridiculous, but yeah, I guess they’re kind of pigtails. Everyone jokes about the mullet pigtails because there are so many bobby pins and rubber bands involved in getting it out of my face. It just started because I needed something to get it up.

CM: Looking more at the team dynamic, last year’s squad became Team Disney. Have you settled on a nickname for 2007?

PW: [Laughs] We haven’t talked too much about it….It was like a joke that was taken 10 steps too far and ended up sticking.

CM: But there’s still a quirkiness associated with the team. Where do things like the outfielders’ gestures to each other after every out come from?

PW: Everyone just kind of started trying to get a sign or a repertoire for every out. We all kind of have our own little habit, like the things that we say in between every inning have been the same since I’ve gotten here. Seventh inning is always infield says, “Chicago” and outfield says, “Maroons.” It’s just always been that way. Then we kind have [our own] little things. I have something with the third baseman and shortstop. It just develops that way I think to give us something to do, but yeah, extreme little hand signals.

CM: How do your field rituals compare to other teams you’ve faced?

PW: Some [teams] have things. I think ours is definitely more organized. I don’t know why it turned out that way.

CM: Things like pregame rituals and general superstitions are a big part of sports, but they seem to have a particularly strong tradition in baseball. How much have they carried over into softball are the Maroons superstitious?

PW: I don’t think so. Well, we always change the defense the same way. I guess [second-year third baseman] Jen Jacobson is the ringleader on that. For the Wheaton game we did a different defensive warm-up, and we ended up losing both of those games. Jen was like, “That’s why. You mess with the warm-up, that’s what happens.”

CM: With the trek each year to Florida over spring break and then traveling in the Midwest for the rest of the season, do you have any good road trip stories?

PW: There’s always a laundry disaster in Florida. First-years have to do the laundry. Something always happens, like last year, one of the girls let the umpire put his laundry in with one of our loads. He ended up walking away with, like, all of our undershirts. We had to go hunt him down. This year the dryer didn’t work, so some girls had to wear dirty socks…. Orchestrating how to get your laundry is always a fiasco.

CM: Other than the perk of having first-years to handle dirty uniforms, what’s it like being a veteran on a squad with a lot of rookies joining the ranks?

PW: I actually really like it. I was really nervous to be a senior because I feel like people look up to you. I remember as a freshman I thought that seniors were so old and wise and mature, and now that I’m there, I’m like, “Seriously guys, don’t look up to me. I don’t know anything.” But at the same time I really like it because I think I’m able to see characteristics of myself as a first-year in the freshmen. That’s kind of cool because I can guide them into things that worked for me and guide them away from things that didn’t. I like it because they’re all really eager to be there, and they have great, new fresh spirits….In a way the freshmen are good influences on the seniors because they have such a fresh attitude to the whole situation.