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Mary Huff named Most Valuable Player of softball World Tournament

Mary Huff receives the Most Valuable Player award at the USSSA World Tournament in Viera. (Courtesy photo)

Mary Huff encountered frustration when she returned to the softball field after recovering from a serious injury.

Huff, who is a pitcher for a Pittsburgh-based slowpitch team that plays in tournaments throughout the country, didn’t exactly bounce right back from her torn anterior cruciate ligament injury, more widely known as an ACL.

“I had a really hard time at the beginning of the season trying to get my feet back under me with the injury and then I had a hard time mentally being present and being able to throw strikes. I walked a lot of people,” Huff said.

At that time, she wasn’t in a good place with her game, but that all changed in late September when Huff helped her team – La Famiglia – win the USSSA Women’s “A” World Tournament in Viera.

“This is the biggest tournament of the season. This is what we work all year for,” said Huff, who is from the Brighton Reservation and is an elementary physical education teacher at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School as well as the head coach of her alma mater Okeechobee High School varsity softball team.

Proof of Huff’s determination to overcome both the injury and those lingering doubts came when she was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, which featured 15 teams from more than a dozen states.

“I did a lot of work. I figured out myself physically and mentally and finally at the World Tournament I couldn’t miss. I was so on, I was so locked in, I was so focused. I had hardly any walks in the tournament,” she said.

The quality of softball in La Famiglia’s world is highly competitive. There are sponsors who pay for the players’ travel costs, including cross country trips to tournaments. All equipment is covered. There are workout and batting practice requirements. Thomas Wingard is the team’s main sponsor and manager.

Most of the players are in their 20s and 30s; some are former college athletes, including Huff, who is 31 and whose college career included Indian River State College, the University of Central Florida and St. Petersburg College.

“The team puts in a lot of work. They are some of the most in-shape girls out there because of the requirements that we have,” Huff said about her teammates who come from 11 states.

As for defense, Huff said it’s easy for her to trust her teammates.

“They’re amazing. I probably have the best defense in the country, or at least one of the best,” she said.

Huff joined La Famiglia more than a year ago. The team saw her playing for another team in a tournament in Maryland and liked what they saw. Unfortunately, it was at that tournament she suffered the ACL injury, but she still managed to fit in with her new team right away.

Huff came aboard at a good time because La Famiglia has continued to move up in class while winning championships. In fact, the World Tournament win was the club’s fourth World championship in a row in its class. It was a two-day tournament. La Famiglia went 6-1, but needed to beat the Classic Glass team twice in a row to claim the title.

“The way we won the entire thing was unreal,” Huff said. “We run-ruled them twice to win the championship. The last three games games we scored 73 runs.”

The offensive outburst proved to be more than enough support for Huff. She pitched every game in the tournament and her best outing came in a 3-2 win.

Slowpitch has its own intricacies for pitchers which might not always be noticeable to the casual observer.

“It’s not as easy as it looks. There’s still ways to hit corners and to change heights and to change looks. You can throw knuckleballs and curveballs. It’s not just lobbing it in there,” Huff said.

La Famiglia didn’t have much time to celebrate because it played in another tournament in Viera right after the World Series, which it didn’t fare as well.

It’s only about a 90-minute drive between Viera and the Brighton Reservation, but time didn’t allow Huff’s teammates to visit the rez.

“We actually talk about it,” she said. “They’re all kind of from the city and they don’t get to experience what the rez is like. When I’m doing my workouts or I’m on a run, I’ll send pictures of a gator or turtles. They’re amazed by it.”
Huff said she enjoys playing high level slowpitch softball as much, if not more, than when she was in high school and college.

“I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing,” she said.

Mary Huff, fourth from right in the back row, with her La Famiglia softball team. (Courtesy photo)
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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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