Rounding the bases with Michigan Softball…

  • BY Lisa Byington
  • 6.04.15

It was mid-April.

The reaction I got initially was a perplexed, head-cocked-to-the-side look.

“They do this pizza thing,” I explained to Bill Friedman, BTN’s Coordinating Producer for Original Productions. “It works for them. It’s fun.”

He laughed.

It really only took about a minute to convince him that this was a feature worth doing.

So we did.

Michigan Softball Pizza Feature. 


And Michigan Softball.

They both caught fire in April, May, and carried over to June — so much so that non-softball fans started to follow. Even, die-hard Spartans began to cheer.

After all, when you see something “done right”, you can’t help but to watch. Embrace. And follow.

Michigan Softball, or Team 38, as Head Coach Carol Hutchins likes to call them, did it right this year.

“I’m all for challenging that 2005 team,” she told me, when I mentioned to her that her 2015 squad had surpassed some of the numbers the ‘05 Michigan National Title team put up.  “But we haven’t accomplished anything yet.”

That was at the end of April, and the question came after winning an unprecedented 8th-straight regular season Big Ten title. That accomplishment alone would be most teams’ “seasons.”

Then came the Big Ten Tournament title. The Regional. The Super Regional. And finishing runner-up in the country.

I’d like to ask Hutch that question again now, but she still won’t answer it.

She refuses to compare years. “This is Team 38,” she says, borrowing a philosophy from the Brady Hoke era. “I never compare my teams.”

Perhaps that’s something we all can take away from a coach, who we should recognize as one of the best who has ever coached. And not just at Alumni Field or on any softball diamond. But in sports, across the board.

Appreciate what you have. Now.

Michigan’s success has been rooted by a coach who understands moments. They aren’t to be shared or compared. You use them, or lose them.

And Hutch doesn’t lose often.

In 32 seasons as a head coach, she has never had a losing season. Overall or in conference play. Early on, she did finish .500 twice in the Big Ten. “I probably didn’t like those teams much,” she laughed. “But isn’t that what you’re supposed to do, win more than you lose?”

So simple.

Few of her era have kept it so simple, and have still learned to adapt.

She tweets her own stuff.

I know this, not only because I am told exactly that, but also because you’ll notice she often spaces out words in her hashtags.

“# The Best”.

She laughs. Because she knows we all are a work in progress.

Like the time she was ejected from a game early in her career. One of the only times. She was forced to leave the field, and walked to a McDonald’s to buy a cup of coffee. The problem? She didn’t have any change in her pocket.

Today, she carries extra cash around. Just in case.

No coach in Ann Arbor has more wins. Not Bo. Not Red. Not anyone.

For a sport that thrives in the sun, Hutch has 1,432 wins at a cold-weather climate school.  “Don’t let that be the only reason you don’t come,” Hutch will tell recruits about the challenging Midwest temps.

And they do come.

“This is the closest team i have ever been on,” All-American and California-native, Sierra Romero told me.

They weren’t perfect, by any stretch. This team even got run-ruled by a talented Minnesota team earlier this year. And, of course, critics can point to a few plays in the Florida series that would have made a difference in being #1 or #2.

Hutch will be the first to tell you, those are moments everyone can learn from. And the lessons underclassmen can build on.

“They’ve been very committed to the team, very committed to Michigan, very committed to each other. And I’m proud of them,” Hutch said after the title game.

We know Michigan Softball for making its pizzas around the bases this year. But it goes beyond “roll the dough, sprinkle the cheese, rain your favorite toppings…”

Michigan Softball showed us how fun, how meaningful, and how special a journey can be.

Thank you, Team 38, for allowing me and others to take a trip around the bases with you.

And make some pizzas.


about the author

Lisa Byington has worked for BTN, FOX, CBS, Turner, and ESPN. She earned her BSJ and MSJ from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She also played four years of basketball and two years of soccer for the Wildcats.