Wednesday July 18th, 2018

Andy Purcell Story by Jeff Potts




He’s arguably the best pitcher in slow pitch softball today, and after 20 plus years in the game (along with 11 USSSA Men’s Major World Series titles and a Hall of Fame induction in 2009), Smash It Sports’ Andy Purcell still enjoys the competition.

"The game is still fun and I love it," Purcell said via phone interview July 11th.  "There are some aspects of it that are different now obviously, but I personally still have a blast playing it."

Purcell indicated that it’s a different game now than when he started playing.

"It’s changed in a lot ways," he said.  "When I first started playing, there were unlimited homeruns (Major NIT), now there are home run limits (except for the Smoky Mountain Classic and the USSSA Men’s Major World Series which are unlimited homeruns).  "You have to use your homeruns smarter now," he continued. "It brings defense more into play and shows you just how good those guys are."

Purcell said it’s weird not having some former teammates playing with him.  

"It was very strange not having (catcher) BJ (Fulk) behind the plate and (second baseman Greg) Connell and Bubba (Mack) and (Dan) "Dirty" (Sanchez) was my backup pitcher," he indicated. "It was very weird seeing those guys across from me and not with me."  "They are still friends of mine and I wish them nothing but the best, except when we’re playing them obviously."

According to Purcell, it was an injury to his rotator cuff that moved him from the infield to the mound.  

"When I first started playing, I was originally a third baseman," he said.  "I partially tore my rotator cuff diving back to first base and I couldn’t throw overhand.  I wanted to keep playing, I could still swing, I just couldn’t throw, so I’m just going to pitch until I heal up.  20 years later, I’m still playing at the top level and doing pretty good, so it worked out in my favor."

There was one pitch that he says nobody was really throwing,

"Nobody was really throwing a knuckleball," Purcell said. "I just gripped it and tried it, and the rest is history."

I asked Purcell about his signature pitch and how well he can make it move.  

"It all depends on the wind," he opined.  "If the wind is blowing out or across, it can be nasty.  If the wind is blowing in from center field, then it won’t do much and if the wind is too strong, sometimes it affects me too much because my knuckleball moves pretty good, so if it’s too strong, that’s where I might have to throw a couple of four-seamers in there."  "For the most part, if it’s just a slight wind (up to 10-15 miles per hour) I can get it to move pretty good," he added.  "It’s just a matter of figuring out how it’s going to move and making adjustments from there to throw strikes."

Purcell indicated that he can’t pick just one of the toughest hitters he’s ever face.  

"It’s really tough to say who is the toughest hitter, there are so many," he said. "Scott Brown always stuck out as one of the toughest hitters to get out, Bryson Baker, and Brett Helmer’s always been tough.  "There are so many great hitters, that I don’t want to single anyone out," he continued.  "Some guys you have more success against than others."

Purcell said a pitcher’s job is a lot easier with a great defense behind him.  

"Having great people behind you playing defense is huge," he said.  "You need someone behind you that is going to catch the ball every time or make a great play."  "From B level on up, I’ve always had phenomenal defenses behind me," he continued.  "I can’t do it without them."

When I brought up the subject of softball chat rooms and message boards, Purcell said he doesn’t follow them.

"I try to stay off the boards/rooms as much as possible, though I do read The Old Scout some" he said.  "I know I’m not a well liked person, people don’t know me off the field.  "Anybody who knows me off the field knows that I’m a completely different person on and off the field.  "I have one goal on the field, which is winning and I’ll do everything in my physical and mental power to win," he added.  "Off the field, I kind of keep to myself, I don’t go out much. I’ll talk to anyone who wants to talk to me."  Purcell said everybody goes about their competitive juices differently.  "I’m an emotional guy on the field," he said.  "I don’t hide anything or pretend to be something I’m not. You’re going to know if I’m happy, mad or upset."

That comment brought up a question on the persona he gives when he’s pitching, throwing his hands up about a call from the plate umpire or just looking in at the plate after a borderline pitch.

"At this point, we have the best umpires in the country that work in the conference (Nationwide Conference USSSA) and they have a tough job," he said.  "We don’t agree on every pitch, everybody argues balls and strike, some people will say something, and some won’t.  Me, I’m going to say something.  "I’m not putting him down. I’m voicing my opinion that I thought that pitch was a strike, so next time I throw it, maybe I’ll get that call," Purcell added.  "I’m not the only one who does that though, every pitcher, hitter and coach in the conference does it.  Maybe it’s my reputation, but if you were actually at every game, you would see that every single pitcher does the same thing."

Purcell indicated he’s learned how to question a bad call to keep from getting ejected.  

"I am surprised at times that I haven’t been tossed from a game," he said. "I’ve been playing this game for a long time and I know what people can and can’t say. I may argue, or say that was a bad call, but I’ll never put the umpire down or personally attack him.  "I do show more emotion," Purcell continued.  "If it’s against my team, I’m going to stick up for my teammate. I may be wrong or right, but it’s against my teammate and I’m not going to sit back and be quiet and let my teammate get rung up if it’s a bad call."

Purcell said there are two non-world tournaments that are his favorite.  

"The Smoky Mountain Classic and the Dudley are the two that stick out in my mind" he said.

I asked Andy about long-time manager Frank Webb.  

"Frank was amazing and a big influence," Purcell said. "He was like everyone’s father and losing him was devastating.  "His wife Shirl has all of us behind her forever," he added. "If she needs us, all she has to do is call us."  

I asked Andy how much longer he sees himself playing.  

"I’ll be 48 in December and I realistically see myself playing for a couple more years, depending on how my body holds up and I can play up to the standard I’ve set for myself.  "I don’t know if I could play if I couldn’t pitch."

Purcell indicated he likes to take it easy during off weekends.  

"I like to just sit at home, watch TV and not do much of anything," he said. "Just really relax all day and weekend."

I asked Andy how he deals with all the travel, along with plane flights and sitting in airports and being away from his family.  

"It’s tough at times, but you get used to the traveling," he said.  "The hard part for me now that I’m older is being in pain after playing. Walking through airports and sitting on planes."  Andy said dealing with injuries is part of the game.  "The older you get, the more annoying injuries get," he said. "After a weekend of playing, I won’t feel good until Thursday.  "The older you get, the harder it is to recuperate."

I ended our conversation asking him about his 2009 induction into the USSSA Hall of Fame.  

"It was an amazing feeling, and I couldn’t be more proud to be included with all the great players that have played this game," he said.

5 responses to “Andy Purcell Story by Jeff Potts”

  1. Jeff says:

    Thanks DW for letting me write this

  2. Sideshow says:

    Great job, Jeff

  3. Jeff says:

    Thanks guys

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