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Stofflet also has a kind of "fifth pitch" in his repertoire—his will to succeed. Early in life, he staked out his territory, a small and unpublicized domain but a well-defined one. He was going to be the best softball pitcher in the world, and if nobody else would know it, that was O.K., because he and his father would. "I remember telling myself I was going to be the best," says Stofflet. "My dad wants me to be the best."
Stofflet hates to lose. Even in a casual basement game of table tennis, a sport he plays to keep in shape and one at which he has become quite proficient, he can't let a point against him go unanswered. "O.K., nice shot," he says, "but if I had been really playing I'd have moved my body around to this side and got it back, because that wall there is stopping me. Let's move the table a little. Yeah, now hit that shot again, and if I can get around on it.... There, like that. See, it's by you. You won't get it by me again."
Similarly, Stofflet feels he has rarely, if ever, left a debt unpaid on the playing field. "Yeah, I can remember really getting shelled once, back in 1970," he says. "I'll never forget it. We were playing a tournament in Lancaster, and this team from Providence was just punching the ball all over the place on me. Back then I just had my speed; I didn't have much stuff on the ball. Maybe they got like three, four hits an inning, and the score was maybe 7-0 or 8-0. Later that season, we faced them same guys again, and I'd picked up a few things by then. I shut them out.
"Home runs? Sure, I've given up a couple. One guy yanked one out on me this year at Springfield in the nationals. With two strikes I threw a drop that didn't do anything, and he hit it out. But I struck him out the next time."
Stofflet's manager on the Barbells, Rocco Santilli, says, "Ty is like Johnny Spring was. He fights you on every pitch. There's a pretty fine line separating a lot of pitchers, and the big difference is the ability to concentrate on every pitch. He can concentrate a little more. And he does."
When the time comes, in five or maybe seven years, when Stofflet stops winning almost every time out, he says he'll quit. Of course, a lot of outstanding athletes have said the same thing, but Stofflet insists he means it. And he has a precise gauge he will use in determining when it'll be time to get out. When he can no longer "pop," when he can no longer be sure he can simply blow the ball past a batter, he'll hang it up.
One thing Stofflet won't do is switch to slow-pitch softball, a sport that is growing at a faster rate than fast-pitch is dying. He holds slow-pitch in the same regard in which Lehigh County farmers hold potato blight; in fact, slow-pitch is one of the few subjects that move Stofflet anywhere close to passion.
"That's the last thing I'll play," he says. "That game should be for people 35 years and older. Anybody below that should have to go in fast-pitch, know what I mean? There's a lot of good players who could play fast-pitch, but they're in slow-pitch for one reason—they've got their girl friends sitting in the stands and they can holler, 'Hey, Hon, watch me hit this one!' And they can hit it. Why should they strike out against me when they can make contact? Contact, that's the thing. That's what it's all about for them.
"I try to promote fast-pitch. But what I hear a lot about from kids is slow-pitch, and I tell them they're in the wrong game. I'll have to admit that fast-pitch is dying out, and slow-pitch is the reason. That's what guys are going into, know what I mean? And you know why...?"
We do. Contact. Something a hitter rarely makes against Stofflet. He is absolutely correct. There is perhaps nothing easier in sports than hitting a slowly pitched softball. A slow-pitch batter can go years—even decades—without seeing strike three. A fellow named Denny Jones of Concord, Calif. hit .829 last year when he was MVP in the ASA's Major Slo-Pitch Tournament. Scramble the numbers and you have .289, an average nobody attains against guys like Stofflet.