The stereotype is concrete sure. Unchangeable. Part of the game's lexicon.
The generational success of softball in Northwest Indiana comes from one reason. A father sitting on the white bucket as his young daughter learns how to pitch. He then begins coaching her in a season where dandelions are caught more than fly balls.
It usually doesn't end until graduation from high school.
But this is Mother's Day. This story can't be about the Daddy-Daughter-Softball triangle, can it? There has to be more to the story. Right?
“Our Senior Day was one of my last home games,” Hanover Central catcher Katie Klopp said of her mother, Mary. “My mom came out on the field and she started crying. It made me cry, too. I know all she wants is the best for me.
“I love her so much. I wouldn't be where I'm at now without her.”
The Porter County Conference softball championship was played on Saturday in LaCrosse. Many of the top players in the league echoed what Klopp said about her mother.
Yes, a father is important in the development of a player. But in the PCC, at least the stereotype needs another chapter. One with a more matriarchal tone.
“I'd be pretty lost without her,” Hebron senior pitcher Mollie Lindeman said of her mother, Sherri. “She's definitely there for me in everything. I know she cares about me more than anyone else. It's great knowing she's always there supporting me. It means the world to me.”
Maggie Lindeman, the younger sister, has the same Hallmark card. With Dad coaching, the technical parts of the game are often taken care of there. It's the real-life stuff that many mothers are better at. Like remembering to bring sun-tan lotion or bug spray when the weather heats up.
Or, “She takes care of a lot of my responsibilities,” Maggie said. “She brings me water or ice for my arm. She's very good with my food. She always texts me, 'What do you want to eat?'
“It's usually peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I'd be lost without her. She's just awesome.”
In the big inning
Mary Klopp was on Crete-Monee's first softball team back in the 1980s. In those days, softball was on the same level as the freshman bug club. There wasn't much there.
“We used old, extra baseball equipment,” Mary said. “The shin guards were huge. There was such an outpouring of girls who wanted to play they were scrambling to find enough equipment for the girls.”
After graduating in 1985, Mary was recruited to play at St. Francis College in Joliet for coach Dick Smith. Katie is also going to St. Francis. Smith recruited her, but will be retiring at the end of this season.
As a toddler, Katie used to go see her mother play recreational softball in the summer. She was raised around the dusty diamonds. When Katie's older sister started playing T-Ball, Katie quickly found what position she wanted to play.
“Katie thought the catcher's gear looked cool,” Mary said. “So that's how it started.”
Wally Klopp is also very involved in his daughter's career. But this is Mother's Day.
“It's really enjoyable, she's better than I ever was,” Mary said. “We couldn't be any prouder of her than we are.”
Winning the PCC title is one gift Katie would like to give to her mother. But either way, Mary will be shown how much she's loved this morning.
“Me and my dad will make breakfast for her,” Katie said. “We'll get her some flowers. It will be a relaxed kind of day. We'll take her out for dinner. Wherever she wants to go.”
The bruised hand
Sherri Lindeman was a swimmer and diver when she attended Highland High School. She admitted she didn't know much about softball back in the day.
But when Mollie was about 10, a Little League coach said, “This kid's got an arm. She should try pitching.”
So Sherri went out in the backyard and got behind the dish. And Mollie started to fire.
“I caught with my right hand,” Sherri said. “I didn't catch her for long. It bruised my hand really bad. Right through the glove. I looked at it and I thought, 'That could be scare tissue.'”
Sherri said she's amazed to see what Mollie has done the last four years. To get in the circle and take charge. “I admire what she does,” Sherri said.
The family has spent many a Mother's Day playing in travel softball tournaments. So playing in the PCC tourney on the eve of her day is not a burden. It's normal.
Many of the Hawks mothers decorate the players' locker rooms with positive slogans. They pack lunches for games on the road. Sherri gives messages or rub downs to her daughters after they pitch.
“Cheese and macaroni is good, too,” she said.
Sherri and her husband, Tom, have taken turns running the girls to different fields in the summer season. On Saturday, though, they were all at one place. Just like the softball that Mollie hit off of Whiting's Mel Dumezich for a home run that is displayed in the kitchen.
“My mom is not a big sports person,” Mollie said. “But the fact that she was trying, showing me she really wanted to succeed and do well, that means a lot. I appreciate that she was out there bruising her hand for me.”
Sherri is Hebron's loudest cheerer, Mollie said. She does the chant, “RB, RB, RBI” be herself. When the girls were younger Sherri took a cowbell to all the games.
“I just want her to know how much I love her,” Mollie said.
“She would be very happy if we could win the PCC,” Maggie said of what gift she wants to give her mother. “That would be awesome. But I'll probably wake up (today) and make her breakfast. I'll get her a card and write a whole paragraph about how much I love her and stuff.
“I want her to know that.”