PENNY Causby couldn’t have known that supporting her daughter’s sporting interest would eventually lead to a softball journey that has taken her around the world.
It was 1987, when Jon Bon Jovi was living on a prayer and The Bangles were walking like an Egyptian, when Penny’s daughter Sally made a simple request to play softball.
From that early introduction, Penny began what turned out to be a 34-year playing odyssey in the sport which has seen her play softball not only in Gawler, but all over Australia, in New Zealand, Italy and the US.
Now that journey is coming to an end for Penny as she has made the heart-wrenching decision to hang up her glove.
She leaves the game as one the most widely respected local athletes in the region, although some mates will still be able to catch up with her on the diamond in masters’ tournaments.
What turned into a lifelong passion began simply by chance, when a friend encouraged Penny – who always loved ball sports and team sports – to give softball a go.
It was then that her career began with Bluejays in the Gawler and Districts Softball Association (GDSA).
It was a sporting marriage made in heaven, as Penny loved softball, and everyone involved with the game loved Penny.
One thing was evident though in those early games of softball – she really knew nothing about the sport. In her very first game, while running to third base, fielders were yelling out “tag her, tag her”, and, as the ball was heading her way, Penny ran over third base and hid behind the third base coach, not wanting to be tagged.
But over the years she learnt the intricacies of the sport and has held numerous roles within clubs, including president, committee member, umpire, scorer and coach – including one season where she coached two under-14 teams and an under-16 team.
With a few seasons’ experience under her belt, the next step was masters competitions, which started Penny’s softball travelling bug in 1992.
She enjoyed going away for weeks on end to participate in competitions and meet other people who enjoyed the game as much as she did.
Playing in association teams gave Penny a new experience, as she had teammates who she had previously only played against, which meant the local opposition were no longer “the enemy”, and strong friendships were formed.
With fellow softball friend Robyn Wheeler, Penny was involved in taking a junior squad of 16 players, (aged 14-19), on a four-week trip to the USA in 1996.
They spent a fortnight in Texas and two weeks in Portland, Oregon, which she reflects on fondly.
“I received many complimentary comments about our girls over there,” Penny said. “They were impressed with how ‘our country kids’ played, because they just enjoyed the game so much.
“Many of the softballers in America, although they may enjoy the game, were playing in high school so they could get into college.”
Playing for the love of the sport is a quality Penny would instil in all teams she coached – a quality she instilled in her own children, including Katy, who played softball and represented the SA state team, and Sally, who pursued rowing and represented Australia at world championship level, winning two gold medals.
While Penny started with Bluejays, she also played with Giants, before returning to Bluejays, before again re-joining Giants to finish her local softball career.
“Retiring from softball in Gawler is hard,” Penny said.
“I’m going to miss the friendships and the physical fitness, which is so important for the body and mind.”
At the recent GDSA awards night, Penny was formally recognised for her years of playing and coaching, and presented with the signed match ball used to pitch her final game. She received a standing ovation, as everyone wished her the best, and reminded her that she will always be part of the softball family.