June 10, 2005
by Joe Maxse, Plain Dealer Reporter
There is nothing like being an "old" pro at 31.
That's how Amy Kyler feels as she begins another season in the National Pro Fastpitch league, once again pitching for the Akron Racers. In fact, the former record-setting standout at Cleveland State is the lone player who has played in the women's league since it was founded in 1997, the year she led CSU to its lone NCAA Tournament.
"I am surprised," said Kyler, a CSU assistant the last four college seasons. "I didn't think I'd play this long, but I'm glad for it. As people got older, they got jobs and had to stick with work. CSU has wanted me to play."
But the holder of nearly every CSU pitching record nearly hit the end of the line one year ago. Playing for California, she tore nerves and tendons in her right arm that put her on the sidelines.
"When the nerves tore, it shut down the muscles from my elbow to my shoulder," said Kyler. "There was no sensation or strength. The only time there was pain was when I was in my pitching motion. The doctors told me it could take a year, two years, maybe three years."
Playing the game since she was 10, Kyler said she was willing to call it a career if the area did not heal. But after physical therapy and extensive testing, Kyler said she was back throwing in January.
"I healed really fast," she said. "They are actually going to be writing it up because it was such a strange injury."
The Racers benefited from her return as she threw a four- hit shutout in a season-opening 4-0 win against the Arizona Heat last Thursday. The Racers are 3-1 heading into their Firestone Stadium opener tonight against the California Sunbirds at 7 p.m.
Akron manager Judy Martino, beginning her second year with the Racers, drafted Kyler in 1997 when Martino coached the Carolina Diamonds.
"I knew she had speed, and she was long and lanky," Martino said. "She had that good record [at Cleveland State] and a lot of potential. She hasn't shown any signs from the injury. She might be a little rusty throwing to batters."
Akron will play 36 home games during the 48-game season, including international contests against teams from Canada and Venezuela. Rounding out the six-team league are the Texas Thunder, New England Riptides, Comcast Chicago Bandits and the New York-New Jersey Bandits.
Each club has 16 active players with a salary cap of $100,000.
"It's not about the money," said Kyler, who did not reveal her salary. "I want this league to go."
Formerly called Women's Pro Fastpitch and the Women's Pro Softball League, 2005 marks NPF's second season and first with local ownership. The Akron Racers Foundation is headed by Joey Arrietta, who is general manager and executive director.
The Racers boast three 2004 gold-medal winning Olympians in third baseman Crystl Bustos, outfielder Kelly Kretschman and catcher Jenny Topping. Ohioans include Kelli Metzger from the University of Akron and Jackie Poggendorf from Miami of Ohio.
Tickets are $9 (reserved) and $7. Call 330-376-8188.