The Change Up: Taught by a Hall of Famer
As Missouri State senior pitcher Natalie Rose continues to climb the list of career pitching leaders in Bears' history, one name means more to Rose than others.
Terri Whitmarsh (now Terri McClure), a dominant pitcher for the Bears from 1983-86, coached Rose for a number of years when she was a promising young hurler in Oklahoma. Rose said her mentor taught her the "nasty" change up that has gotten her more collegiate strikeouts than her mentor.
"My mom took me to her lessons for the first time when I was eight years old," said Rose of her first meeting with McClure. "And I absolutely loved it."
Rose's grandfather owned a business in the same shopping center as McClure's pitching lessons were held. Rose soon began pitching lessons and as McClure recalls, threw just three pitches during the first 30 minute session at age eight.
"If you know Natalie, this won't surprise you," said McClure. "She would throw a pitch and then giggle the rest of the time."
McClure says that Rose's family support was the key to her growth as a pitcher. She says throwing to a person is more productive than throwing to a net or something that can't give feedback. Rose says that it took both parents to make that work.
"When I started pitching, my mom caught me," recalled Rose. "But I started getting better and my dad had to start catching me."
After training with McClure, Rose was invited to join the local club team and pitched for McClure with the Tulsa Tuff Stuff. That is when Rose learned to throw a changeup.
"I am old-school when it comes to teaching kids to pitch," continued McClure. "You have to be able to throw strikes and change speeds. You have to be able to throw hard to effectively change speeds and if you teach curveballs and screwballs that young, it hinders the ability to throw hard."
McClure says the key to Natalie's success is her ability to throw the change up for a strike. But at the time, Rose wasn't interested in learning to throw a "slow" pitch. So McClure improvised and had Rose throw a change up every pitch for an entire game in Texas. Despite this strategy befuddling Rose's mother, the team won with Rose only throwing the off-speed pitch.
"She made me throw a change up on every pitch," stated Rose. "Every pitch. My mom went over to Terri and said, `you have to pull her, she's doing awful.' But Terri told her that I was learning the change up. We still won the game, which was pretty crazy."
Rose also learned to throw the change up by another means. McClure would put a chair about 10 feet in front of home plate and told Rose she had to throw the ball over the chair, but it had to drop in the strike zone in the last 10 feet to the plate.
All those drills and long hours ultimately paid off, even though the college offers didn't come flooding in at first.
"She was one of the top-two pitchers in the State of Oklahoma," said MSU head coach Holly Hesse. "But she was from a small school, so not a lot of people saw her pitch. When we saw Nat, it was like finding a diamond in the rough. Knowing that she had a good pitching instructor in Terri, she had good mechanics."
As they say, the rest is history. Rose accepted a scholarship to join the Missouri State softball team and by April of her sophomore season, everything was clicking for her.
During her time at Missouri State, Rose has compiled more than 550 strikeouts and more than 130 appearances. Both totals have surpassed McClure's career numbers at Missouri State. Last season, Rose surpassed McClure's single season record 263.0 innings pitched by firing 265.1. Rose also started 39 games in 2011, five more than McClure's single season total of 34.
"I am just tickled to death that Natalie is doing so well there at Missouri State," said McClure. "Records are meant to be broken and I couldn't ask for someone better to be breaking my records than Natalie."
McClure is the all-time leader in wins (73), earned run average (0.54), innings pitched (837.1), games started (109), shutouts (37) and complete games (99). A workhorse for the Bears from 1983 through 1986, McClure was a two-time all-conference selection in 1985 and 1986 and was the first softball player to earn the school's Female Athlete of the Year award in 1986. She was so dominant during her career that she was named to the Bears all-decade team in 1992 and into the Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996.
"Some of her records are untouchable," observed Rose. "We are both really competitive, so just being on the list of all-time pitching leaders with her is an honor."
Terri Whitmarsh Career Pitching Statistics
Natalie Rose Career Pitching Statistics (Through April 15, 2012)
*The save was not officially recognized as a statistic during most of Whitmarsh's career. Italic text indicates school record.