Courtney Gano, Growing Up Like Mom
June 29, 2012
Courtney Gano had heard many stories about her mother Rhonda Wheatley pitching for nationally-ranked Cal Poly Ponama and for Team USA. Now it's her turn to shine in the spotlight.
For 10 days, the Washington third baseman, along with fellow teammate and second baseman Kylee Lahners, will join elite and amateur softball players from all over the world for the 2012 Scotiabank Canadian Fastpitch International held in Surrey, British Columbia. This year will be the first time the two upcoming sophomores will play at the long-standing event, but Gano will get to experience something no other player has - she will get to be apart of the first mother-daughter duo to play in the event.
"It's kind of exciting, but it's not nerve-racking," said Gano. "It's kind of like following in her footsteps. I wouldn't say it has put more pressure on me. It's just exciting to be able to do what my mom did."
LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER
You can say that Gano is a lot like her mother. Both grew up with life revolved around softball, were selected player of the year as high school seniors, and were a big part of their college teams' success. Their personalities are even similar enough that Wheatley sometimes sees herself in Gano.
"We're both really low key. We don't really take ourselves too seriously. I think that helps when you're playing," Wheatley said of the comparison. "It's kind of a relief if you allow yourself to have fun while you're doing it and not take yourself too serious. I think in that way we are similar. She's not afraid to laugh at herself, too, which I think is cool."
We don't really take ourselves too seriously. I think that helps when you're playing.
Much like Gano's unique fashion style, with the black-rimmed glasses worn throughout the season and into the NCAA tournament, Wheatley was known for something so unique, it's a rarity to see now-a-days - her slingshot pitch.
"I was an oddball because I was a slingshot pitcher," Wheatley said of the unique pitch which involves only a large backswing and release, without using a full rotation. "It just happened because it was comfortable for me. My brother taught me a knuckle ball - that was my go-to pitch for every team I played for. Until I started going to a pitching coach, I basically had a screwball and a change-up."
That worked for Wheatley, as she went on to become a three-time All-American at Cal Poly Pomona and is currently the fifth winningest pitcher in NCAA history, not to mention she's also won a gold medal for the USA at the 1987 Pan American games (she did not allow a run in 14 innings pitched).
Gano has heard stories like these from other people, so it's no surprise that the biggest influence in starting her softball career was from her mother. After starting out with baseball, Gano started playing softball at the age of seven. She would visit the batting cage her mother owned, working on her fundamentals. She eventually started doing her homework there. Although she didn't get a chance to see Wheatley play, she did get to experience taking on one of her infamous pitches.
"One time, she was showing and teaching me how to throw a rise ball," Gano recalls. "So I have my glove out and I'm just waiting for the ball to come into my glove. All of a sudden, it was a nasty rise ball that just rose above my glove. It didn't even touch my glove - it hit me in the face. So I've seen her kind of in action."
After attempting to become a pitcher when she was younger, Gano switched to infield because her mother suggested that she had the mentality of a shortstop or a third baseman more than a pitcher. That has worked out for Gano, as she became a fixture on the UW roster during her freshman campaign. Now, the hard working sophomore from West Covina, Calif. has a chance to showcase her talents in front of an international crowd at the Canadian Fastpitch.
THE CANADIAN FASTPITCH INTERNATIONAL - MORE THAN A GAME
Gano will play in the Elite Division for the California A's, a club that owner and coordinator Kathy Miller started up in 1993. Miller put nine different teams into the Canadian Fastpitch International in the past 16 years. She is also no stranger to the Gano family. Her first team that she took up to Canada in 1994 had a well-known superstar on its roster by the name of Rhonda Wheatley.
"Rhonda was an incredible athlete. I was told she was a slingshot pitcher - something that is so unique and unheard of now. She was a gamer and rallied the rest of the people on the team," Miller said.
We want them to better themselves in every way. It's an experience of a lifetime.
Miller puts teams together by choosing players based on recommendations from the softball community and gives opportunities to young, talented players to be seen worldwide. But the Canadian Fastpitch International, one of the top three women's fastpitch events in the world, is more than playing games for a few weeks. It's about life experiences.
"We teach them how to connect. We'll visit host families, do clinics for Canadian kids, and visit the hospital," Miller explained. "We want them to better themselves in every way. It's an experience of a lifetime."
With teams from the U.S, Great Britain, Indonesia, China, and many other countries, "the festivities are much bigger than the normal tournament," Wheatley said.
Gano added, "It's going to be nice, playing with Kylee Lahners and then with people I've never played with before, playing against new people, and just getting some summer softball in."