George Bigelow a valuable mentor to young softball pitchers in Berkshires
PITTSFIELD -- The soft-spoken older man reclined in a lounge chair behind the backstop at Doyle Park on a recent sunny afternoon.
"Change-up," he said softly as Drury pitcher Cat Record fired a pitch to a batter for St. Joseph.
"Wow, change-up again," he said, as Record tallied one of her 12 strikeouts on the afternoon. "Nice job."
The individual had more than a rooting interest in Record's progress. His name is George Bigelow, and he works as a volunteer pitching coach for the Blue Devils.
Bigelow's credentials are top-notch: He was one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- fast-pitch softball player of the Berkshire County fast-pitch softball era. He pitched for more than 33 years in leagues in New York and New England.
On a warm Saturday night at Wahconah Park in 1961, Bigelow defeated "The King," softball barnstorming legend Eddie Feigner, 4-1.
"Yeah, I beat him," said Bigelow. "He wasn't too happy."
Bigelow was a basketball star at the former Adams High School, leading the Hurricanes of coach Chet Zabek to a Western Massachusetts crown in 1953. He then played basketball for Boston College for four years.
But he loved pitching a softball.
"I loved the challenge," he said. "The challenge of striking a man out. And the leagues in those days were incredibly competitive. Amazing pitchers."
He retired at age 51. But while he was still playing, he was asked by a member of Lynn Stockley's family to give the former Taconic pitcher some tips.
"She came up to my house," he recalled, "and we threw in my driveway."
That was in 1980, and Stockley went on to have a legendary career for Taconic and later the University of Massachusetts.
Bigelow has been giving pointers to county pitchers since then. Among his pupils was Taconic great Kara Nilan.
Record is his pet project this year.
"I think I was a decent pitcher before I started working with George," said Record. "But he's taught me so much. He's teaching me how to throw a knuckleball now, and I learned how to throw a good drop pitch. George is all about the drop pitch."
"Cat has benefited, first of all, from her hard work," said Drury coach Mary Ann Maroni. "But she is also willing to listen, and George knows what he's talking about. She has really improved in the past few years.
"Give him credit for taking the time to help so many young pitchers," she continued. "Most guys would retire and that would be it. But he really enjoys working with young players."
"It's what keeps me going," said Bigelow. "I really like working with the kids. They're great and they listen."
To reach Derek Gentile:
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