Perryville senior Ann-Marie Simpson has been playing softball for a majority of her life. This spring she is trying something new.
Simpson decided to come out for the Perryville baseball team and sees it as a new challenge.
“A couple of the guys asked me to come out and I thought it would be kind of fun,” Simpson said. “I thought this would be a great opportunity. I really wanted to help the guys, because I know numbers on the baseball team are low this year.”
For Perryville baseball coach Blane Boss it will be his first experience with a girl on his team in the spring. What started as a joke of sorts turned into a reality. Boss believes that Simpson can be an asset to the roster.
“It turned out we didn’t have too many kids come out and it’s one of those things where we are going to need her this year,” Boss said. I picked on her about coming out for baseball earlier this year. As the spring got closer I told her that if she still wanted to try out that she could.”
Perryville softball coach Dustin Wengert said that Simpson talked with him about trying out for the baseball team and encouraged her to do so.
“If it’s something she’s passionate about I don’t think she should be limited to just softball.” she said. “Ann-Marie would probably say that she didn’t like the way her softball season ended. My thing is why can’t the girls play with the boys?”
If Simpson is in any way as productive as she was on the softball diamond, Perryville baseball will be getting a good player.
Simpson was a two-time all-state softball player at Perryville. He garnered the Jefferson County Athletic Association Conference Defensive Player of the Year Award as well. In her final season at Perryville this past fall, Simpson hit .474 with 37 runs scored and 23 RBI. Simpson has already signed with Three Rivers Community College this fall to play softball.
“There’s some differences between baseball and softball,” Simpson said. “I think this will force me to pick my game up a little bit more. I think playing baseball will make me faster and stronger than I am right now.”
The biggest difference Simpson has noticed so far is the flight of the ball out of the pitcher’s hand.
“The plane of the ball is much different,” Simpson said. “In softball, the ball travels up and in baseball the ball is going down. The speed of the ball is faster and the size of the outfield is much bigger, so that has taken some adjusting on my part.”
As of Monday, Simpson has gone 1 for 3 at the plate, getting her first hit on March 24 against Ste. Genevieve with a bunt single.
“It was first and third and coach wanted me to bunt for a hit,” Simpson said. “I just wanted to get it down and if anything score the run. It just so happened that he bobbled it and then we had bases loaded.”
Boss is hoping for more hits like that in future games and he feels like she can do just that.
“She’s one of our smarter players,” he said. “She’s been around the game her whole life. Her brother Jerome played here so she also knows some baseball. You know you’re going to get a solid at-bat from her. She’s still making the adjustment from hitting a softball and a baseball. So far she has done a great job with that. I think her biggest asset to us is her defense and speed.”
So far, Simpson has hit at the bottom of the lineup and played left field. Boss said that he is trying to keep her as comfortable as possible when it comes to her place in the field and the lineup.
“I think in a pinch she can play center and a little out in right,” Boss said. “I’m trying to keep everything familiar. I think it’s beneficial for her to be comfortable because this experience is so new and different.”
Coming onto the baseball team as a girl can be quite daunting, but after going through the first few days of practice and after getting her first hit, she got all the information she needed as to where she fit in.
“The guys have been great all year,” Simpson said. “When I get down on myself they are the first ones to pick me up and encourage me. When I got that hit, the only thing I could hear was the cheers from my teammates.”
However, this season goes for Simpson, Wengert knows exactly the type of player the Perryville baseball team is getting.
“Ann-Marie is a competitor and knows how to win,” Wengert said. “She’s bringing that winning mentality and an attitude to keep everyone loose. As long as they see her as a baseball player, it will be fine.”