Editor's note: Softball coach Mary Nutter died of heart failure on July 24 while on vacation in Colorado. She was a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
No one loved the sport of softball more than Mary Nutter. Every player that picked up a ball, every coach that gave a word of encouragement, and every fan that was bitten with the fastpitch bug were all in her heart. She loved the game and gave back to the game continually from her days of playing as a young child, to her hall of fame playing days, to her advocacy as a pioneer with the NFCA, to her legendary and innovative ideas about educating coaches and players thru camps and clinics.
Mary Nutter passed away on July25th when her heart stopped functioning. I believe she so loved the sport of softball and the United States of America that her heart could not take the start of the London Olympic Games knowing that softball would not be on the agenda of sports. I will never forget the joy and exhilaration that exuded from her during the Atlanta Games in 1996 when the USA captured the first Olympic Gold medal in the sport of softball. I truly believe it was one of her most cherished moments. And she had so many cherished moments with a life filled with amazing accomplishments and close friends.
To meet Mary is to know Mary. She held back nothing when meeting someone. You instantly felt connected, valued, and in her circle of friends. And she touched so many lives from the very young to the very old. She would call it like she saw it, and was horrible at holding her tongue when she disliked something. She could give you a compliment and a harsh reality check in the same breath and then make you laugh.
Laughter was one of her greatest gifts. She could laugh at herself with utter self-confidence and loved to tell jokes. Whether those jokes were corny, oddly humorous, or quirky, her delivery of the punch line always made you smile. She was one of the most optimistic people I have known, even when there was no reason to be optimistic. Her perseverance and tenacity so inspired me from the first moment I met her. She saw in me something that I did not know I had, the ability to talk in front of large groups and spread a message about the game I loved.
When she asked me to speak at my first coaches’ clinic, I said that I was not sure I would be any good. She replied that everyone in the room will want to know what’s in your head Mister. MISTER…,that is how she always addressed me in person, on the phone or in an email. When she said “Listen Mister," I would listen and believe in every word that followed. She inspired me to think big, dream big, not to look back, keep my focus on what I can do and not on what I cannot.
She could and did accomplish anything she set out to do. She lived her life unashamed, unabashed, unapologetic and devoutly faithful in belief in God. Her life was so filled in giving to others, and giving back to the sport she loved and mostly to the people that loved her. She did not talk about her personal life but lived with such integrity and honesty in all that she did. Her sexuality was a fact but never a topic. She focused always on what she could do for others and not what others cared to know about her.
When I approached her last year to introduce a topic of homosexuality and homophobia in sport at one of her coaches’ clinics, she didn’t hesitate to encourage me to follow my heart. “Speak on the topic as it relates to coaching and it will work” , her words gave me strength. She never doubted in me. She always thanked me for my passion when talking about how I can make a difference. It was never about herself, but it was always about everything she had in her precious heart.
This is what she did best, empower those around her to give more than they knew they could. She was an angel on earth with a devilish humor. I know she will be working her magic in Heaven and will never miss a chance to watch a softball game and a play at the plate on a throw from the outfield. She will find a way to get softball back in the Olympic games. Our Angel in the Outfield is now Our Angel in Heaven. We love and miss you Mary.
Photo via Collinsville Extreme Club.