Like word problems? Try this one.
Question: Alli Parker’s sizzling fastball zips to home plate at a speed of approximately 55 miles per hour. Assuming she’s pitching from about 45 feet away, how long does it take before the batter gives up all hope of hitting it, and instead thinks about joining the swim team?
Answer: About three-quarters of a second. Or less.
Analysis Forget the hitting part. I’m just trying to catch it. Alli’s dad (and Central Oregon Fastpitch Coach), Dan Parker, has allowed me to slip on a catcher’s mitt to experience first-hand what it’s like to be on the business end of his daughter’s greatest weapon. Crouched behind home plate on a field at Bend’s Juniper Park, I feel the full force of a player likely destined for a stellar softball career. Her windup consists of aggressive footwork to build momentum toward the plate—followed by a full 360-degree arm rotation before pulling the trigger. Alli throws bullets.
She’s all of 12 years old.
“It’s just a lot of hard work and a lot of hours of practice—and a lot of coaches have helped me,” says Alli. “I’m playing up. I’m 12, but I’m playing in a 14U (a league with girls 14 and under). And when I strike a lot of girls out that are older than me, and they really don’t hit off me a lot, that’s when I feel like I’m better than a lot of people.”
Dad has seen this coming for a while. “We realized that at about 10 [years old] she naturally threw hard underhand,” says Parker. But like most girls that throw hard she was inaccurate. That’s what she’s been working on for the past several years.” Alli’s constant drive to get better really makes her stand out. “She works hard,” he says. “She works after work. Even after practice she’ll come home sometimes and keep pitching. If her arm isn’t sore, she’ll throw. She always wants to go.”
As for Alli, she’s definitely aware how much her parents have helped. “They’re really important,” she says. “Without them, I don’t really know where I’d be right now.”
All the hard work paid off over the summer when Alli was picked to play for the Northwest Mountain team at the USA Softball All American Games in Oklahoma City. This elite tournament is for 12U (12 years old and under) eligible girls across the nation—limited to the top 360 girls in the country.
It was Alli’s chance to shine on a national stage. “They picked six girls from Oregon, six from Washington and two from Alaska. It’s a good honor to play on this team,” she says. Playing 14U helped me get ready for that because I’m playing with bigger girls.”
Not bad for a girl entering seventh grade this fall. “She’s very passionate about this game,” says Ty Godfrey, another one of her coaches. “She wants to be the best at what she does. Alli always steps on the mound with determination to be able to shut down every batter.”
Godfrey’s confident that things will only improve. “She’s got a shot at a Division I school. Oregon, Washington—something like that could definitely be in her future—for sure.”