For Thomsen, it’s safety first, then an NCS championship

BY BOB PADECKY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

NOVATO — Four years ago the line drive came within a foot of her face, a laser beam it was, shocked her right to her bones, didn’t know something like that could happen. Heck, Dana Thomsen was only an 11-year-old pitcher. How could she? Will, her dad, saw it, was frightened as much as she was, went online and did something about it that very night.

Petaluma's Dana Thomson fields the ball during the Division II North Coast Sections championship game held at San Marin High School in Novato, June 3, 2011. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

That something lay on the ground Friday night, just to the right of the pitching rubber at San Marin High as Petaluma’s Thomsen took her warm-up pitches in the NCS Division 2 softball final against Carondelet. When she finished her warm-ups, Trojan third baseman Allie Cordis walked over, slipped her right foot under a mask a catcher might wear, lifted it, flipped it to herself and presented it to Thomsen who then placed it over her face.

It was a superstition, something the pair have done each time this season before Thomsen pitches. It is, however, much more than a ritual for good luck. It is a piece of equipment that for Thomsen has taken the fear out of standing just 43 feet away from someone swinging an aluminum bat.

“It has given me much more confidence when I pitch,” said the Petaluma sophomore, who went the distance (six innings) in picking up the victory in Petaluma’s 15-4 mashing of Carondelet. Watching Thomsen pitch while wearing the mask, one couldn’t help but think about Marin Catholic pitcher Gunnar Sandberg being hit in the face last year just down the road in Kentfield, launching a demand for the banning of aluminum bats in high school baseball. Thomsen was ahead of the curve on this one.

“When I first put it on,” said Thomsen of the mask, “I said, ‘How in the heck do you expect me to wear this?’ It took me a whole summer season to adjust. Now I would never pitch without it. I don’t think twice about it. In the beginning I thought people were going to make fun of me, laugh at me.

“It didn’t happen. Now, I don’t care what people think. I feel wearing it makes me more intimidating.”

The idea, however, has not caught on, at least with the teams the Trojans have faced. Her mother, Anisa, can recall only one other pitcher this season wearing a mask. The sport, even for girls, has an unspoken but very strong commitment against flinching at anything. Her coach, Kurt Jastrow, doesn’t care.

“Next season I am going to have my third baseman and my first baseman wear masks, too,” Jastrow said. “I would like my shortstop and second baseman as well but that’s optional. I play my corner infielders aggressive, creep close to field a bunt. They are as close as Dana. The CIF is talking about this. Florida is a year ahead of us (in softball reform). They are going to go to it (masks) soon. It’s going to happen everywhere. Safety should always be our first concern.”

Even for the coach. In the fourth inning Petaluma’s Taylor Millard smoked a liner at Jastrow standing in the third base coach’s box. At the last second Jastrow swatted the ball away from his face, then pointed to Millard in mock anger to cease and desist.

“When I had Sam Banister (future college All-American) here,” Jastrow said, “I stood on the outfield grass when she batted.”

Jastrow laughed at that memory and Thomsen laughed at hers, of that whizzing softball four years ago passing her on her left, a foot from her face. She didn’t know much about the girl who hit it then, Jazz Chadwick. She does now. Chadwick is now Thomsen’s teammate.

“Jazz and I are so close,” said Thomsen, aware that statement has more than one reference.

For more North Bay sports go to padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.