Athlete Spotlight: Pittsfield's Natasha Shade
Pittsfield's Natasha Shade wrapped up her PHS athletic career over the weekend in the Western Massachusetts Division I softball championship, but before Shade heads out into the real world, we caught up with her mid-week before the final. Shade opened up about her slap-hitting style at the plate, being a captain in three sports this year, who the best athlete is in the Shade family, plus much, much more.
BERKSHIRE EAGLE: Your first appearances for Pittsfield varsity softball were mostly as a pinch runner. What did it take to go from that to where you are now.
NATASHA SHADE: Everybody starts at a lower point coming in, I think. It was an adjustment to be on JV, it wasn't something I was happy about, but getting some varsity experience towards the end of that season, coach using my speed to the team's advantage, was huge. I was definitely waiting for my opportunity. I put a lot of effort and work into it over the offseason, and coach Marchbanks giving me that shot really helped me.
EAGLE: What can you tell us about your batting stance and slap-hitting style?
SHADE: It's a lot different than what I did while batting right-handed. Around middle school, I made the switch. It's a lot different because I'm moving in the box, not waiting for the pitch to come. For me, now, it's just natural. It took some time to be able to see the ball, but now it's second nature.
EAGLE: What are your goals at the plate?
SHADE: I'm mostly trying to get it on the ground between the third baseman and shortstop, or, depending how their playing me, try to pop it over them. Just reading the defense and trying to get a base hit.
EAGLE: Have teams started shifting or doing anything special to stop you?
SHADE: Teams have different shifts, or different ways coaches tell their defenses to play much, but if they shift back, I can drop a bunt down. If they're up, I slap it.
EAGLE: What have you been doing this week to prepare for Minnechaug?
SHADE: Had today off, but then we're right back at it practicing every day. We watched some of their game yesterday, and coach will try to work some of their pitches in, see what we're going to be facing.
EAGLE: You've had the opportunity to be a captain for soccer, basketball and softball this year, what have you learned about yourself?
SHADE: I think I was always trying to be a leader. People have looked up to me before, but just having that title gave the extra boost. That my coaches recognized that and that my teammates were looking up to me has been special.
EAGLE: What was the toughest?
SHADE: Probably soccer. I didn't really play before high school, and there was a lot more girls. We had a new coach this season, so there was a lot of adjusting, and we had to be even more of a leader.
EAGLE: Who is the toughest pitcher right now in Berkshire County?
SHADE: I'd say Abby Wells at Wahconah. She's the most skilled pitcher we've seen out here. She's my hardest adjustment to make this year.
EAGLE: With your senior year wrapping up, but softball continuing, does it make it harder to experience and enjoy everything else about graduation season?
SHADE: It's tough to manage with practice and then everything from senior trips to prom, but everything is still based around softball. I'm glad that's all past, because now it's just focusing on softball and winning a championship.
EAGLE: What are your plans for summer?
SHADE: I'm trying to find a summer softball team to play on, but might end up just working and going to some camps to get looks from college coaches. I'm definitely planning some beach trips with friends before we all go off to school. Probably some beach in Rhode Island?
EAGLE: Who is the best athlete in the Shade family?
SHADE: I mean, I would have to say myself, but I know a lot of people would probably argue that Chad is.
EAGLE: What was it like growing up with your two older brothers, Chad and Kyle?
SHADE: When we were younger we were just always together. I look and see pictures of us even in the bath. Growing up with two older brothers, I liked it. I wish I had a sister, but I wouldn't trade that for my two brothers.
EAGLE: What are you binging on television right now?
SHADE: I just finished "When They See Us" on Netflix, about those five African American kids who were in Central Park.
EAGLE: What would you splurge on if money wasn't an issue?
SHADE: Definitely shoes and clothes. I have a lot of Nike shoes, there's some that my mom or my boyfriend would buy me that I'll just never wear to preserve them.
EAGLE: What's your routine when you get out to take grounders at second base?
SHADE: First, it starts with me and Lexi Sondrini, our left fielder. We can't really high-five each other depending where the dugout is, so we do it in the air. Then, Jordyn Lummus, our center fielder, and I do a foot shake, which took a lot of work to put together.
EAGLE: What's your favorite Starburst color, or candy overall?
SHADE: I go with the pink Starburst for our player of the game award, but overall candy I'd have to go with Reese's.
EAGLE: Which Western Mass. championship was sweeter for you; the basketball one in 2017 or the softball one in 2018?
SHADE: Definitely softball for me. We all really wanted it and it meant so much. Obviously the basketball one meant a lot too, but that was my sophomore year and there was more to come.
EAGLE: How did you land on the decision to do a post-grad year at Cushing Academy?
SHADE: Since Chad went there, I had experience to that. It was my backup plan the whole time. I wanted to do college right away, but I want to go into nursing, which is a hard program to get into, so I was waiting to see what schools would have me in for that, but in the end decided on Cushing.
EAGLE: What drew you to nursing?
SHADE: Ever since I was a kid I wanted to do something medical related, and nursing kind of stuck with me. But, I could see something in athletic training as well.
EAGLE: What's you top postgame meal?
SHADE: I don't really eat a variety of different foods. I just go with the Kraft mac and cheese in a box.
EAGLE: What movie do you rewatch the most?
SHADE: The Notebook. It just makes me cry all the time. It hits me in a way other movies don't.
EAGLE: Tom Cruise vs. Justin Bieber in a fight, who are you taking?
SHADE: Definitely Tom Cruise. I can't imagine Justin Bieber in a fight, that'd probably just go bad.
This interview was conducted, edited and condensed by Mike Walsh.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.