Fast-pitch softball is part of Adam Lalonde’s DNA.
The 13-year veteran of Team USA Softball Men’s National Team, who lives in Ashland with wife Chrissy and sons Tyson and Coalton, grew up watching and playing the game in Cheboygan, Mich., where his father, Michael Lalonde, was a fast-pitch star in town.
“My dad played it and I was always around it,” Adam said. “I played Little League (baseball) then Senior League. That’s about the time when I started getting involved.”
Lalonde played fast-pitch and baseball through high school and went on to play college baseball at Central Michigan University. His hitting coach at CMU, Tom Tresh, convinced him to play fast-pitch softball during the summer so, “that’s what I did. It really helped me.”
Lalonde, a shortstop in college, wasn’t drafted but did sign to play professional baseball in Australia for two years.
Eventually, though, fast-pitch softball kept calling him. He was playing on one of his father’s open-level fast-pitch teams when he was invited to a tryout for Team USA. He made an immediate impression with his bat and speed in 1999.
Lalonde has been a fixture on the team ever since.
He has been a first-team ASA All-American while playing for the Midland Explorers and the Tampa Bay Smokers. His softball teams have allowed him to travel the globe internationally.
On Saturday he left for New Zealand as Team USA competes in the world fast-pitch softball championships — the World Series of the sport. The tournament will be March 1-10.
Lalonde, who is the team captain, plays center field and bats leadoff. He hopes one day men’s fast-pitch softball will be welcomed to the Olympics. It has been accepted to the 2015 Pan Am Games which, Lalonde said, is a step in the right direction.
He is not sure if his playing days will be over by the time the sport becomes part of the Olympics. Lalonde is 37 but only recently suffered his first major injury setback. He returned from a four-day trip in Florida where on the first at-bat of a tournament he had a partial shoulder separation.
“God bless (Dr.) Terry Meredith,” he said of the local chiropractor. “He has worked on me every single day up to today. I’m so thankful for him and his staff. They have me back at 100 percent.”
Lalonde say it takes great reflexes and concentration to excel at fast-pitch softball. The pitchers are throwing from 46 feet at average speeds of 80 mph. The fastest thrower, who is from Australia, checks in at 89 mph. That is the equivalent of a major league pitcher throwing 116 mph.
“To be honest with you, it’s one of those things that once you’ve done it so many times you get adjusted to it,” he said. “One of the biggest things we pride ourselves on is being able to pick pitchers. As they rock back and throw ball, you can see the grip and know if it’s a rise ball, dropball or changeup.”
Lalonde can still hit as any of the many athletes in the area can attest. He teaches softball lessons at Championship Fastpitch, including team lessons. He has worked with the four-time defending 16th Region champion Ashland Kittens for four years. But his clients include many players from the entire Tri-State area.
“I know they look up to me, where I’ve been, what I’ve done,” he said. “My biggest supporter in this whole thing is my wife and family, staying behind me on this and letting me tackle my 37-year-old dream.”
Boyd County Sheriff Terry Keelin will accompany Lalonde on the trip to New Zealand. Chrissy, who is a personal trainer, is the daughter of Kathy Keelin, Terry’s wife.
“(Player) Expenses are paid for but the family expenses, unfortunately, are not,” he said. “Our wives aren’t real happy with us. They’re stuck home taking care of my two wonderful sons. They’ll have to watch it on ESPN.”
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648