I am Nina, 26 years old, and a German softball player. My club team is called 'Mannheim Tornados' and we play in the first division, the 'Softball Bundesliga'. I started playing softball in winter 2003 and my first position was second base. I tried almost every position, but now I am mainly playing third base and catcher. Next to playing on a club level, I have the honor to represent my country as a first baseman in the national team. I love playing softball, but I am also a coach for our second softball team in Mannheim. When I am not on the softball field, I work with children from the ages 1 to 3 in a kindergarten near Mannheim.
What can I tell you about softball in Germany? Well, I start with my team and how softball is organized in Germany. The Tornados softballteam is the incumbent German champion and we lead in most won German championships. Since 1996 we won the title 11 times. The Bielefeld Peanuts also won 11 times, but this team doesn't exist anymore. Last season we played in a double tracked league, meaning there are 4 teams which play in the south and 4 teams which play in the north. My team played in the north next to the Wesseling Vermins, the Hamburg Knights and the Neunkirchen Nightmares. We played each team 4 times. Gamedays are organized as double headers, so we had 2 gamedays away and two at home. There is a rule that the first game can only be played with a European pitcher (our first pitcher is Mona Hörner, who also plays in the German national team). In the second game an American is allowed to pitch. In 2016 we played the season with 2 US-players, a pitcher (Lori Spingola from the University of North Carolina) and a catcher (Shannon Bustillos from the University of Maryland).
Our preparation for the season usually starts in winter with practice twice a week: Wednesdays with pitchers and catchers and Saturdays with the whole team. During off-season, we can't use the field because it's too cold outside. So, we need a gym for practice, which is hard to find. Mostly because they are never big enough, but also because the city is hesitant about allowing baseball or softball practice in their gym (they think we destroy everything...). But we try to make the best of it. Our physiotherapist works with us in strength and conditioning and we always figure out how to make practice as much fun as possible, sometimes in really small gyms. In summer we practice 2 to 3 times a week on our softball field and the batting cage: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
In terms of sponsoring, softball isn't very well supported in Germany. We do have some sponsors, but we still have to pay a lot ourselves, like gas for away games, shirts, personal softball equipment, or the European Cup. It's a problem in Germany, because our sport is not very popular. That's why we also have to pay a little fee for every national team practice or tournament we play, to make sure we can stay in a hotel or youth hostel and have a gym to practice in.
Let's talk about the European Championships! In 2015 we fought back and placed in the top 7. We had some great games and were a bit unlucky in others. Now, we are looking forward to 2017 and of course we want to show Europe, that german softball is better than place 7 :)