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Softball life: Marty Lackner, Austria

My name is Marty (33) and I am an Austrian softball player. I started to play for the Witches Linz in 1995 and at New Year, after a few month of training, I was sent to a pitching clinic that must have ignited my love for pitching. In my career I played at every position and now am a pitcher, corner and shortstop, but I enjoy baserunning the most.

Currently I am on the Austrian Softball National Team and play for the Witches Linz (AUT) and Žraloci Ledenice (CZE). Through softball, I met some of the greatest people, became part of wonderful families and travelled the world.

The teams I played for during my journey:

  • AUT: Austrian National Team, Linz Witches, Vienna Wanderers

  • NZ: Royals Wellington , Central Vikings (NL), Wellington (U23)

  • SWE: Naelsta, Skövde Saints

  • ITA: Peanuts Ronchi dei Legionari

  • NED: Tex Town Tigers

  • CZE: Eagles Praha, Žraloci Ledenice

  • USA: Highland Community College, Kansas (D2 Junior College)

The highlights of my career are winning the European Cup of Champions three times and coming in 3rd twice; winning the National Titles in Austria, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and in New Zealand with the U23; writing history in the Netherlands with six RBIs in one inning by hitting a grandslam and a homerun with a runner on base against two different pitchers; being twice number six in Europe at the EuroChamps and reaching the 18th place at the WorldChamps in Surrey. One season that I will never forget was the “clean season” with Eagles Praha in 2013, where we won the Winter Cup, Czech Cup, European Premier Cup and then turned a 0:2 series around in the final to win the series 3:2 against the very strong Joudrs.

Sport plays a big part in my life. I used to be an artistic gymnast and played rugby 7th for the Austrian Rugby 7th National Team. Skiing is my biggest hobby. I have a Bachelor degree in sports science, kinesiology and health sports and a sports journalism degree. I attended the NFCA Coaches College in 2008. Currently, I am doing my Master study in Salzburg in sports science and kinesiology with the speciality professional sports and an internship at the Olympic Training Centre Linz. I am the strength and conditioning coach of the Austrian beach-volleyball team Freiberger/Klopf. After finishing my studies, I would like to work with professional athletes. My dream would be to build an indoor training facility with a batting cage, pitching, fielding, strength and conditioning area.

Back in 1995, there was no internet. We learned from books, videos, at clinics and other players and coaches. I always enjoyed practicing. Still to this day, love to be on the field. My mum, also a sports scientist and 4-time grandma, still plays softball for the Witches. She coached me in artistic gymnastics and I coach her in softball. We even played against each other. Dad is our biggest supporter, who helps us with any crazy ideas, like building training equipment. Throughout the years, the Witches have developed many national team players. Gabi Hardinger, Vice President of the Austrian Baseball Federation (ABF) and Technical Commissioner of the ESF, is the leading force of the club. After coming back to Austria to play in 2013, it was important for me to give back to the club where I once started to play. This is why I am involved in the development and recruiting of young softball players in Linz.

Softball in Austria is not popular. It is hard to get funding, media attention and to find sponsors. The players pay a club fee to be able to play. A few individuals carry the sport and the name Conny Chwojka plays a big role. Conny has been there almost from the start. In 2016, she became the only player, that participated in the 1994 and 2016 World Championships. She has won almost all the national titles with the clubs she played (Vienna Razorbacks, Vienna Wanderers, Dornbirn Sharx) and the European Cup of Champions 2009 with the Sharx. Conny loves to compete and for sure wishes that every player would give as much as she does. She is an active handball and tennis players and likes skiing.

Michael Schmidt is the other well-known person from Austria. He started with coaching the Sharx, then became their manager, was the manager of the national team and worked as the Vice President of the ABF for Softball and still is the chief of the ASL. He had a huge impact by providing the national team with great coaching staffs and preparation packages throughout the years. This made it possible to enter the Top 6 in Europe. Michael, as Executive Director, and Francesca Fabretto, former Sharx and national team coach, as Vice President Softball for Europe, are working for the WBSC now. Their success is huge by achieving the implementation of the sport into the Olympic program for Tokyo 2020.

Fastpitch Softball in Austria is organized in two leagues. The Austrian Softball League (ASL) and the Softball Bundesliga (SBL). They consists both of 6 teams. To force the clubs to develop youth players, the Under-19-players rule was implemented a few years ago in the ASL.

The SBL started a few years ago to give teams, that struggle with their numbers and that do not want to play too much, the chance to play. The teams can have guest players from other clubs in case they are not enough. The SBL became a good league to develop young players.

The European Champs will be as difficult and interesting as always. We finished 6th in 2013 and 2015 and managed to reach the 18th place at the World Champs 2016. Beating the five big nations in front of us is our goal and to achieve a position better than 6th we need to beat the ones behind us too.


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