The World Baseball Softball Confederation explains that softball was initially known as kitten ball, then diamond ball, mush ball and pumpkin ball. In 1889, the rules were codified and in 1926 the name softball took its place in the lexicon—and hearts—of passionate American sportsmen and women.
Sports historians believe that the game of softball began in 1887, eight years before the dedicated monks of Lacey’s Saint Martin’s University first opened their doors to the community. Over the past 125 years, both the school and the sport have grown, adapted and thrived.
Saints softball coach Jim Peterson volunteered with the team in 2016 and was brought on as head coach in June of 2017. But the team itself, says Sports Information Director Austin Byrnes, began 20 years earlier. “Our first official season was 2000, however, we had a fastpitch team from 1995 to 1999,” he explains, “and softball just recorded their seventh straight winning season; the longest consecutive winning streak of any sport in Saint Martin’s history.”
Coach Peterson, a Central Washington University grad and native Washingtonian, played on a men’s fastpitch team for 15 years before switching gears. “I started to get into the coaching side of it and where the opportunity was, I went there.” Off the diamond, he ran a wholesale business that allowed the flexibility to coach. He sold the company in 2015 to devote himself to the game.
His passion and dedication paid off. During that time, Peterson was part of the coaching roster for the Canadian Olympic team that made it to the final, medal games round of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
At Saint Martin’s, Peterson and his staff recruit approximately 20 players each season from all along the West Coast. Practices begin with the fall semester in September and games start in January. He says that once on the team, players sign on for a “full-time commitment.”
Players have come from Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Hawaii, but coaches primarily try “to recruit kids that are going to be a good fit for our program and school,” he adds. With a high percentage of returning players, Peterson’s eye for talent is apparent.
And it’s working. “Over 50 percent of our student athletes that were eligible for Academic All-Conference (3.20 GPA or higher) were awarded this past season,” recounts Byrnes, “and Saint Martin’s had 18 student athletes selected as GNAC All-Conference selections, two voted as All-Region selections and one All-American this year.” The school currently boasts 13 NCAA sports offerings with approximately 250 participating student athletes.
During a typical season, the softball team plays 28 league games—half at home, half on the road—and in several tournament settings. “Every year, the Saints travel to Turlock, California, for the Tournament of Champions,” says Byrnes. “They also play Montana State Billings in Billings, Montana and Simon Fraser in British Columbia, Canada for conference. Saint Martin’s has traveled to St. George, Utah, for the NCAA Tournament, Las Vegas and Hawaii for tournaments.”
“We’re transitioning into a new system, style, brand and philosophy of softball,” explains Peterson, “and I’m excited for the second year of building on that.” With 12 returning players this year, he looks forward to another successful season.
Have a future Saint interested in learning more? Girls as young as 8 can participate in this summer’s 2018 Softball Summer Camps. The Youth Camp is on Tuesday, July 10, for players ages 8 to 12 and the All Skills Prospect Camp, for 2018 to 2022 high school graduates, is on Wednesday, July 11. These full-day camps pair players with current Saint Martin’s players and staff, and details, registration forms, and medical release documents can be found online.
Are you an alumni athlete or passionate softball parent interested in becoming a Saints donor or sponsor? Thanks to University Crowdfunding, your contribution can go directly to the team’s award-winning program, travel costs and routine expenses.
This year’s 2018 Softball Season Recap gives detailed breakdowns of players, tournaments and season statistics. Visit the team website for schedules, scores, complete roster, standings and new-player recruiting forms.
Saint Martin’s University is located at 5000 Abbey Way SE in Lacey. Schedule an individual, group or open house visit for your future Saint.