In one sense, a year is a long time away from the game. In another sense, Brittany Tumulty said she sometimes feels as if she never left the sport she loves.
After playing catcher for Mattituck’s varsity softball team as a freshman and as a sophomore, Tumulty made the surprising decision to sit out her junior season last year. The decision was even more perplexing considering how well she played her sophomore season, finishing with a batting average that approached .500.
But then again, Tumulty’s issue was an off-the-field matter. When she was a sophomore, she said, the team was dealing with “a lot of drama. A lot of things were going the way people didn’t want them to go. It was just a lot of bickering going on, no team chemistry. It wasn’t a team. I wouldn’t call it a team.”
Tumulty said she wasn’t having fun, so she chose to step away from softball for a year, with an eye on returning this year. She said it was the right decision, and she has no regrets. “I think it was best for me just to take a year off,” she said.
Now Tumulty is back behind the plate, catching pitches and making throws, just like old times.
“The first day of practice I felt like I never left,” she said during a break in Monday’s practice. “I got right back into everything. I felt at home again.”
Tumulty said she did miss softball. She missed it enough that it would have been too hard for her to watch her friends and former teammates play last season.
“I think I went to one game,” she said. “I walked by because I didn’t want to watch it. I missed the feeling of being in the dirt. I love getting dirty.”
Sounds like something a catcher would say.
Playing catcher is near and dear to Tumulty’s heart. She said she wouldn’t trade catcher for any other position (although she is intrigued about what it would be like to be a pitcher).
Tumulty has not always felt that way about the only position she has played. When she was in Little League, she was thrown into the position. Then, when she was 14, she was asked if she wanted to play on an under-16 team. When the coach of that team asked the players if there was a catcher among them, other players pointed to Tumulty.
At first, Tumulty didn’t appreciate the finer points of catching. She was uneasy about the idea of people firing the ball at her and bats swinging within inches of her head.
“I used to hate it,” she said. “I was terrified. I hated going to practice, I hated getting pitched to. It was scary for me because I wasn’t used to the balls being thrown at me, but now I love it because I’m involved in every play and people look to you for support.”
Sure enough, Tumulty has found that while catching can be difficult at times, it is not boring.
With Tumulty back in the picture, Courtney Ficner, who did most of the catching for Mattituck last season, moves to first base. The rest of the projected starting infield includes Cassie Pelan at second base, Melissa Siegfried at shortstop and Alexa Orlando at third base.
Mattituck coach Kelly Pickering likes what she has seen from Tumulty so far in practice.
“She’s looking really good,” Pickering said. “She’s actually surprised me a lot … with some of her skills behind the plate.”
Mattituck’s starting pitcher, Sara Perkins, is hurling pitches to a familiar face. Tumulty caught for her when they were both freshmen and sophomores. That means there is a comfort zone around the strike zone.
“The fact that she’s back helps us as a team,” Perkins said. “It makes a difference for both our roles because she knows how I throw, and I know how she catches.”
Tumulty said she feels good to be playing again.
“It actually feels like I never took off because I’m with the same people that I’ve been with since we were younger so it doesn’t feel like I’ve missed anything,” she said. “Even though I haven’t played since 10th grade, I don’t think I’ve lost any ability. I always kind of had the natural ability. This is my favorite sport, so it was easy for me to get back into the spring of things. It didn’t take me a while. I was ready to go.”
Tumulty was smiling at Monday’s practice, and a smile is worth a thousand words. She said her time away from softball has only made her appreciate it more.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How are you liking softball?’ ” she said. “I’m like: ‘I love it. I love it like I’ve always loved it.’ ”