Editor’s note: Word of the “rule change” discussed below has yet to really filter through to North America, but having watched Adam pitch, one has to wonder what impact that this will have on American and Canadian pitchers who essentially throw much the same way …
Editor’s update, Saturday, November 20, 2010:
Discussion on the issue going on over at the Sask Jr. Dbacks board.
From ABC Grandstand Sport in Australia
By Tim Gavel and staff
Updated November 19, 2010 12:50:00
International career over? The rule change means Adam Folkard may never represent Australia again. (Getty Images: Chris Skelton, file photo)
The international career of one of Australia’s top male softballers hangs in the balance after the sport’s governing body changed the rules due to his dominance.
Adam Folkard was one of Australia’s stars in the Steelers’ International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championship victory over New Zealand last year.
Folkard was so dominant that he pitched a no-hitter to end the Black Sox’ reign as world champions.
Responding to concerns from rival countries that Folkard’s pitching was limiting the role of batters, the ISF changed the pitching rules.
The rule change only affects international softball, meaning the ACT-born pitcher can still play for his club team in the US but, as a result, Folkard has been effectively been stopped from playing for Australia.
He is not only the most dominant pitcher in softball but also one of the fastest, with recorded delivery speeds of 130 kilometres an hour.
In essence, the key to Folkard’s success has been his ability to disguise his delivery rather than his speed.
The new rules effectively prevent pitchers from shielding the ball from the sight of batters, and they appear to be a deliberate attempt to blunt Folkard’s influence on the sport.
The pitcher himself has played down the notion the rule is solely to lessen his impact from the mound.
“There’s a fair few people overseas, especially in American clubs in the club league there, that all pitch the same way as well,” he told Grandstand.
“People say it’s because I was dominant at the worlds but I had a good game just like they could have had a good game.
“There’s no use punishing someone for having one good game. It’s unnecessary and it’s not that big an advantage to pitch the style that they’re banning.”
But Australian men’s head coach Bob Harrow said there was no doubt in his mind that the rules were modified to rein in Folkard’s dominance.
“There is a lot of pitchers in the world pitching like he does now, and it’s going to hurt a lot of people,” he said.
“Let’s face it, in our Australian squad there are three others that are probably going to be affected too, just in certain areas they haven’t been calling [the foul] yet.”
Harrow said inconsistencies in how the rules are enforced could be damaging for the sport, despite the changes being made to make games more entertaining to watch.
“The bottom line is I don’t think even the umpires are completely aware about how the rules should be called yet,” he said.
“I had a meeting with the umpires last night on the phone and they’re starting to take a look now because they’re going to lose a lot of ballplayers like Adam Folkard and we just can’t afford that.
“They say they want to see a lot more runs in a game – when you get 17-15 scores, nobody wants to see that in men’s softball.”
Folkard was selected in the Australian team to play New Zealand and Argentina in Canberra in December, but he has pulled out and his international career is now in jeopardy.
He said he did not want to embarrass himself on the international stage by fouling out for his action.
“There’s no point being in the team and taking up a spot when I won’t be able to pitch,” Folkard said.
“Obviously it wasn’t an easy decision to make but it’s one I had to make.
“It’s an honour playing for Australia. It’d be pretty cool if things could get sorted out and we could get back to the way things used to be.”
The Australian Softball Federation is hoping the international body changes its mind on the rule change.