Told to throw as hard as she could, pitcher Raine Padgham was just following instructions.
Except in this particular instance — a training session at last week’s Baseball B.C. High Performance Camp at Whalley Athletic Park in Surrey — what happened next was as hot as her bright pink hair.
“Eighty-three,” said Anthony Pluta, Canadian Women’s Team pitching coach, reading out loud the velocity of Padgham’s fastball for everyone to hear.
That’s 83 as in miles, not kilometres, per hour (which would be 134 km/h).
Eighty-three, as in possibly one of the hardest pitches ever thrown by a female player, and almost certainly the hardest ever thrown by a 15-year-old.
I’d like to thank the coaches at <a href=”https://twitter.com/Baseball_BC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Baseball_BC</a> high performance camp! <a href=”https://twitter.com/SmackAttack22?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@SmackAttack22</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/AJPluta?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@AJPluta</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/LogiBerra?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@LogiBerra</a> <a href=”https://t.co/S8F85Lb9FV”>pic.twitter.com/S8F85Lb9FV</a>
“I’ve seen some pretty hard fastballs,” said Pluta, “but that’s the hardest I’ve seen from a girl in my short time with the national team.”
“It just kind of happened,” said Padgham, a Grade 10 student at Abbotsford Senior Secondary. “I was super surprised at myself. I’d never broken the [80 m.p.h.] milestone.”
According to coach Logan Wedgewood, the pitch made everyone at the ballpark stop and take notice.
“For most 15-year-olds, regardless of gender, throwing 83 is really fast,” he said.
Today I witnessed a 15 year old girl top out at 83 mph off the mound. <br><br>So if ur one of those essentialist people that are gonna try to tell girls they can’t play sports, don’t. <br>It’s a tired and ignorant narrative that has been detrimental to female player dev. <br>Let’s be better.
Afterward, there was no high-fiving or Gatorade shower, says Padgham, just a “good job” from coach Pluta before resuming the business of throwing her bullpen.
The question of whether the pitch actually broke any records has taken a little longer to sort out.
Because women’s baseball is a relatively young sport, the keeping of statistics and records doesn’t seem to be well established.
Even the Guinness World Book of Records is woefully out of date, listing a 2013 throw of 69 m.p.h. as the fastest ever by a female player.
Internet searches turn up mentions of women throwing 80 and 81 m.p.h., but there’s no official statistics page.
But there is a go-to person at Baseball Canada: longtime national team coach and manager André LaChance, whose deep knowledge of the women’s game is unmatched in the country.
LaChance’s take: 83 m.p.h. is not a record breaker, but it is remarkable for a 15-year-old.
“In the last 15 years I’ve seen several pitchers throw harder [in the mid-80s], especially in Japan and in the U.S.,” he said on the phone from his home in Ottawa. “So, not a world record, to answer your question.”
Next year when she’s 16, Padgham can take aim at different record. She’ll be old enough to try out for the senior national team and could possibly become the youngest member ever.
LaChance says her potential and talent are obvious, but he’s reluctant to heap expectations on the teen.
“We always have to be careful to predict the future of an athlete, especially between the ages of 12 to 17 because they haven’t finished their maturation or growth and lots of things can change.”
But, he added, “It’s going to be interesting to watch her progression, for sure.”
For her part, Padgham says news that the pitch wasn’t record breaking doesn’t change anything.
She’s already set a new goal for a personal best — getting her fastball up to 85.
“It gives me something to work for and to challenge myself with,” she said.