From Paradise to the Diamond
by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
Photos courtesy of Canisius College
Sandy beaches, 80 degree temps. It’s not exactly a bad way to start a softball season. That’s exactly how Canisius College sophomore softball player Erin Hufford and the Griffs did as they kicked off the season in lovely Hawaii.
It was a chance of a lifetime for the Hufford, and the team. Getting out and being able to play in the sun and warm temps beats staying in Buffalo where Spring is a forgone conclusion.
“It was so cool,” stated Hufford. “Just getting the experience to play in front of my teammates families was really cool. And experiencing the change of culture was awesome. It was kind of weird playing the warmth already, but it definitely really nice to get onto some dirt and have the opportunity get some spring training in.”
It has been a pretty good rise for the former St. Mary’s High School product, but also a learning curve. At St. Mary’s, Hufford was expected to the lead the team to victory - that’s what happens when you are one of the best players in Western New York.
There was a never a day off for Hufford, expectations were too high. At St. Mary’s, Hufford would play all over the field. You needed her to play the outfield she would line up there. You needed her to pitch the biggest game of the season there she was on the mound.
It was a great experience, but one that could get taxing at times. Playing through injuries was the norm in high school. It wasn’t like a college roster where the team is 24 players deep. Some high school teams are lucky to have 13 on the roster.
In high school, Hufford would play through injuries that’s just how it was.
“In high school I had to play through everything,” stated Hufford. “I was always hurt, and I think that’s a reason why the injuries happened in college.”
As Hufford made the transition to college it became a lot less stressful. She was just one of the girls. Hufford wasn’t expected to lead the team to victory every game. She was just expected to fit in.
Just taking that weight off her shoulders alone saw her game get to the next level during her freshman year. Playing in 42 games, and starting 34, Hufford hit .298 with 16 RBI. She was the table setter at times for a very young, but talented team.
“The transition from St. Mary’s I thought was going to be a lot different, but they really prepared me to come to college both athletically and academically,” stated Hufford. “It as a good experience, it was definitely a built up year to lead us to more wins this year. It helped me learn how to take a college loss. The biggest difference for me was the culture. Going from being a senior, and a leader on the team, to finding myself as a freshman again was pretty tricky.”
In her high school career, Hufford was the table setter. She was the one that got on base so the rest of her teammates could drive her in.
In college it has been a different story. Hufford has hit all over the lineup since coming to Canisius. She has been the leadoff hitter, batted second and even dropped down to eighth in the order.
It has been an adjustment for her, but one that she freely enjoys. Batting in different positions allows her to have a different mind set when coming to the plate. As a leader off hitter, Hufford is expected to set the table for the rest of the order.
If she hits seconds, she knows that fellow sophomore Kara Paradowski will get on base, and more than likely steal second (16-16 in steals). That gives her a chance to either move her over to third or try and drive her in.
“Leading off you definitely have a little bit more stress because you want to set the mood for the game,” stated Hufford. “As a leadoff hitter you want to see a lot of pitches, because you want to see what the infield is going to do. If you are lower in the lineup you can talk to others that are higher in the lineup and get a feel for what you are going to see, and what you are going to do. I feel it takes a little bit more stress off.”
Being able to fit in has been a welcomed change for Hufford. Hufford isn’t the type of player who wants all the attention on her. She wants to be able to come in and do her job, and help this team win some games.
Being welcomed from the start has made it an easy and comfortable transition.
“Not being the go-to girl is really nice,” stated Hufford. “I’m not the type of person who wants all eyes on me. I get extremely nervous. Just being able to do my own thing, and fit so well in with the team. The focus and the attention isn’t just put on one person. Everyone has to carry their own, and have their own role on the team.”
One of the biggest things Hufford had to get used to coming into the college was the number of games that were being played. In high school, it would be a miracle if a team got 14-16 games in during the course of spring.
In college, it’s normal to play up to 56 games in a year. That is a big jump, and one that can’t be glossed over. Many freshman hit a wall after a certain amount of games because they aren’t used to playing that much in a season.
Hufford made sure she got her body ready during the summer for the rigors of a long collegiate softball season.
“The summer coming into your freshman year there is a big difference,” stated Hufford. “Getting that packet the summer of freshman year with all these workouts, I didn’t even know what half of them were, so that was hard. Freshman year I feel like I was injured all the time. I didn’t stay on top of little injuries that I might have had all the time.”
From Paradise to the diamond, Erin Hufford is enjoying her time with the Griffs. And, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind heading back to Hawaii again.