Rick Roberts Is Molding Pitchers for the Future

ELLSWORTH — When Rick Roberts began his softball pitching clinics nearly a decade ago, the goal was just to get kids off the streets.

Since then, Roberts has taught the techniques of fast pitch softball to hundreds of young girls, some of whom have now gone on to college pitching careers.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Roberts could be found in the Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School gymnasium, working with more than a dozen current and future pitchers in two sessions.

He was constantly on the move, shouting encouragement, stopping to adjust a grip, change a stance or offer other advice to girls of various ages and skill levels.

“It all started from working patrol and seeing kids sitting in the parking lot,” said Roberts, who is an officer in the Ellsworth Police Department.

“We started a little softball at the high school, just hitting some ground balls to the kids,” he said.

That turned into weekly pitching clinics that currently involve two Sunday sessions stretching from October to June.

Roberts got his introduction to fast pitch softball as a youth in California.

He recalls signing up for a softball league at the age of 17. “I was warming up slow pitch and an umpire came over and said, ‘what are you doing? This is fast pitch.’”

So Roberts began teaching himself to pitch, enlisting help from a local coach who taught him some of the basics.

“I got hammered,” he says, “but I got better and better at it.”

Good enough, in fact, that he pitched for about 20 years in a California men’s league, firing the ball at about 70 miles an hour.

When Roberts and his family relocated to Maine, he discovered that there were very few pitching instructors available locally.

As a volunteer coach with the Ellsworth high school team, said Roberts, “I began seeing that schools were having trouble with pitching.”

Maine Principals’ Association rules prohibit high school coaches from working with players on their own teams out of season, but Roberts has taught a number of girls that have gone on to face off against his Eagles squads.

“I’ve got kids from age nine, who are just learning, up to a couple of college kids now,” he said. “It’s gone from just getting them off the streets to really pushing them to be the best they can be.”

Roberts starts all of his youngsters out on the fast ball, the youngest of them working with a ball that’s slightly smaller than the regulation size softball.

As they progress, they learn the change-up and the drop ball and then move to the spin pitches, depending on how well they develop.

Roberts is a stickler for proper technique.

“You start them young and make sure they’re doing it right,” he said. “If you don’t teach these kids the right way, they’re going to tear their shoulders up.”

There is a fee for the clinics to cover the cost of equipment and “just to keep even with stuff,” said Roberts.

“But my pay in all of this is to go out to Little League games and watch them succeed and see the big smiles on their faces. It isn’t about money. I just love going out and watching these kids pitch.”

For more sports news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

Hugh Bowden

Hugh Bowden

Executive Editor
Hugh writes editorials, covers Hancock County sports and helps out where needed in The American's editorial department. When he's not on the sidelines, he enjoys playing jazz and tennis. [email protected]
Hugh Bowden

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