COLUMBIA — Lauren Fuller has played catch with her mother her entire life.
For the Fuller family, softball is more than just a hobby.
Both Lauren and Sue Fuller, 51, of Columbia, have played competitive softball nearly their entire lives. Their shared experiences on the field have not only united their family on the softball field, but also cultivated a unique relationship between a mother and her daughter.
A starting pitcher and first baseman for the Rock Bridge softball team, Lauren Fuller's experience has contributed to the Bruins' success this season. She is 14-2 as a starter and batting .560 with six home runs.
Lauren Fuller first started taking trips to the ballpark when she was a year old. Her older brother, Ryan Fuller, had started playing baseball at the time. “I grew up watching my brother play,” she said.
Her mother experienced similar exposure to softball. She grew up playing Wiffle ball with her five brothers in St. Louis.
The culture of softball when Sue Fuller played was different than the experiences her daughter has today. Sue Fuller didn't take lessons or work with conditioning coaches, she just played the game. The same opportunities to play didn't exist either. Her daughter has more collegiate playing opportunities and scholarships available than she did as a high school athlete.
While Lauren Fuller and her brother were only beginning to play softball and baseball, their mother was playing constantly. She played Majors softball on a slow pitch team, the D Sport Spankies of Columbia. Before that, she played on teams out of Springfield and St. Louis. Like her daughter, Sue Fuller grew up playing softball in Catholic youth leagues in St. Louis.
While Sue Fuller played, her daughter grew into the game. Lauren started with T-ball at age 5, and by age 9, she was playing for the Kansas City Originals. Her parents were the coaches of her team, and they quickly realized the Originals needed a pitcher.
“They could pitch, but not throw a lot of strikes,” Sue Fuller said.
After one rough season with the Originals, Lauren Fuller began taking pitching lessons. Such opportunities didn’t exist for her mother when she played.
“Kids today have a lot more opportunities. We didn’t have the same kind of opportunities in women’s sports. I wish I had the opportunities my daughter does,” Sue Fuller said.
These opportunities include more than just training and conditioning. Lauren Fuller has played on competitive teams and travel teams in Kansas City. This summer, she played in tournaments and attended camps in nine different states.
Although Sue Fuller propelled her daughter into becoming the pitcher that she is, she has never attempted to hit her daughter's pitches.
"When they were little, she always wanted me to. I wanted to, to show her that I still could do it, but the risk of injury would not be good," Sue Fuller said.
Although Sue Fuller stopped playing softball five years ago because of an ACL injury, she hasn’t strayed far from the softball field. The Fuller family remains actively involved in the sport as Lauren Fuller continues to play.
“Some people probably think we’re crazy, but people that love softball, they share that passion,” Sue Fuller said.