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  • FASTPITCH SOFTBALL

    Trotter a timeless wonder

    Eagle Point resident still going strong inside the circle at the age of 75
  • The question is simple, the response even more succinct.
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    • MIKE TROTTER
      WHO: A 75-year-old fastpitch softball pitcher for the Southern Oregon Bandits.
      • WHAT: The Eagle Point resident is an Oregon ASA and Region 15 ASA Hall of Famer with more than 60 years and...
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      MIKE TROTTER
      WHO: A 75-year-old fastpitch softball pitcher for the Southern Oregon Bandits.

      • WHAT: The Eagle Point resident is an Oregon ASA and Region 15 ASA Hall of Famer with more than 60 years and 1,700 games in the sport. He will highlight his summer season by pitching in the NAFA Masters West World Series and MFP 60 & Over ASA National Championships in September.
      • QUOTE: "It's just been a gift that I've been given by the maker. A lot of people say I'm a freak of nature, so to speak, because I'm still able to play at the level I've been able to play at and I still enjoy it."
  • The question is simple, the response even more succinct.
    Why has Mike Trotter continued to compete as a fastpitch softball pitcher after more than 60 years in the sport?
    "Because I can," says the 75-year-old Eagle Point resident.
    And there you have it.
    Trotter most certainly can still get the job done inside the circle.
    He proved as much last week as a member of the Southern Oregon Bandits when he went head-to-head with the USA Softball junior men's national fastpitch team and was a dropped fly ball away from a scoreless final inning against the 16- to 19-year-old standouts.
    He'll look to continue to prove it when he takes part in a pair of national tournaments later this summer season when Trotter pitches in the NAFA Masters West World Series, a 55-and-over event Sept. 12-14 in Carson City, Nev., and the MFP 60 & Over ASA National Championships, set Sept. 25-28 in Lodi, Calif.
    "Somebody just has to give me a uniform and I'm ready to go," he says confidently.
    Trotter started playing fastpitch softball when he was 14 in his hometown of Longview, Wash., and things really heated up for him in the sport when he returned from service as a Marine Corps helicopter pilot in 1969.
    In all, Trotter has appeared in more than 1,700 games and remains active despite already being inducted in the Oregon ASA and Region 15 ASA Hall of Fames.
    "There's a passion I have for it more than anything else," he says of fastpitch softball. "I think it has to be the adrenaline rush or testosterone rush from my competitive spirit, I can't really put my finger on what it is that's kept me going, but it's probably one of the main things that's kept me semi-sane after I got out of the service."
    The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander was a key figure in the Portland-area fastpitch scene in the early 1970s before moving to the Medford area in 1977. Whether it was his time with the Lakers or Open Seas Tavern in Lake Oswego, or closer to home with Malot's Mudhens or Blitz-Weinhard, Trotter was an imposing pitching presence with his high velocity and pinpoint accuracy.
    "Mike threw the ball extremely hard," says Larry Binney, an opponent and later teammate as well as longtime friend of Trotter. "He had a great rise ball and a good drop and just had great movement with his pitches. And when you've got a guy that's 6-4 and 40 feet out, he's kind of on top of you when he pitches. In his prime he was one of the premiere pitchers in the northwest, for sure."
    The fact that Trotter is still competing, whether it's for the Bandits or as an arm for hire for teams in need of a pitcher, is a testament to his passion and preparation, adds Binney.
    "Mike's just taken good care of himself and he really stays in shape," says Binney, who began playing fastpitch softball in 1967 and is a Hall of Famer in his own right for all he's accomplished in the sport of softball as a player and coach. "It's just simply amazing that he's 75 years old and still can do what he can do. He still throws a pretty darn good ball, he just doesn't have the endurance to throw four or five games on a weekend like he was able to do in softball when he was younger."
    Trotter began his fastpitch career as an outfielder until an elbow injury forced a change in positions, albeit one he had longed to make since he took up the sport.
    "I played baseball and popped my elbow throwing overhand from the fence in Portland in a semi-pro game when I was 19," he says. "It bothered me in the outfield to where I couldn't throw to the infield very hard, so I moved to the infield but when I couldn't throw overhand across the diamond, I started dinking around with pitching."
    Trotter says he'd always wanted to be a pitcher, whether it was overhand for baseball or underhand for fastpitch softball. He put up a makeshift batter's box and strike zone with boards on his garage as a kid, using that to entertain himself as he pitched at it from about 30 feet away. Neighborhood kids would often come around and they'd work up a game.
    "It wasn't really much of a transition for me other than learning how to throw it hard and hitting my locations," Trotter says of the move to fastpitch pitcher. "That took some time and just took some playing at it."
    To this day, Trotter won't say he's mastered the art inside the circle — although many would challenge that humility. During the winter he's a pitching instructor for pay and in the spring he throws batting practice for Chris Arnold's Crater High School softball team.
    "You never really figure it out," he says. "For a while there I guess some people would have said I was pretty good."
    Fastpitch softball has also provided a social outlet for Trotter over the years, as well as one of healing after his son's untimely passing in 1979.
    "John Parisotto of Malot's Mudhens and Larry Binney really helped me through a difficult time of my life," says Trotter, who credits his wife of 21 years, Linda, and a religious devotion for his ultimate revival. "Basically, that was my out, fastpitch softball, so I got really good at that. And the older I got, I got more inclined to become a pitcher rather than a thrower. I actually became a better pitcher the older I got, which is uncommon."
    When Trotter was in his 50s and 60s, he averaged anywhere from seven to 11 strikeouts per game against good competition. A little known fact, says Binney, is that Trotter wielded a potent bat as a switch-hitter but he became so valuable as a pitcher that his teammates didn't want him risking injury by potentially sliding hard into second base.
    "Mike's just one of those guys who could do everything," adds Binney.
    When the Bandits were created six years ago, Trotter was asked to come on board as a player/coach to help develop more pitchers. While he did that, it also didn't take long for the newcomers to realize the talent they had in Trotter and fellow pitcher Morgan Mapes and that group rode those veteran arms to a men's open win in the Seattle Invitational when Trotter was 70 — he was named Most Valuable Pitcher — and a runner-up finish the following year.
    The only thing that has truly slowed Trotter was a dog attack four years ago that left him with four deep punctures in his right hamstring and damaged the muscles in his leg.
    "I was changing irrigation sets and this big white pyrenees dog around 125 pounds came out behind me," recalls Trotter, who played football for Lower Columbia Junior College before joining the team at the University of Montana. "I didn't even know he was there and he just nailed me in the back of the leg. Had I went down, I probably wouldn't be talking to you today but I was able to react and spin into pressure and throw him off."
    "That has been my slow demise of being able to pitch, though, because I don't have any push," he adds. "I'm trying to come back as best I can."
    Some days are easier than others, and the ever-competitive Trotter didn't exactly exit his meeting with Team USA beaming with pride.
    "I thought I was pretty flat," he says in all honesty. "I was hurting pretty good that night. As you get older you have a tendency to ache in places and I have a 40-acre ranch out here that I work and I was pretty stiff from throwing two weeks earlier in Mt. Vernon, Wash. I didn't think I had a lot ... a little spin and that was it."
    Trotter says his time as a competitive pitcher is winding down, although he's happy to keep doing it so long as everything meets his standards.
    "I have expectations of myself and if I can't live up to my own expectations, then it's time," he says. "I'm going to play until I can't, but that's getting close. When I can't defend myself, that's the big key. Then it's time, because the ball comes back pretty hot."
    Until then, Trotter relishes the experiences he's had and continues to have in what he considers "the greatest sport ever invented."
    "It's just been a gift that I've been given by the maker," he says. "A lot of people say I'm a freak of nature, so to speak, because I'm still able to play at the level I've been able to play at and I still enjoy it."
    "It's been a blessing for me and it keeps me young mentally when you stop and think about it," adds Trotter. "Where else can I compete with 19 year olds, or for that matter 17 year olds? It's been a good combination for me."
    Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry
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