COLUMBIA – In a no-hitter all eyes are on the pitcher. The players, the fans and the coaches are all watching to see the next pitch. But before the next pitch is thrown, the catcher’s eyes look away from the circle and towards the dugout.
There stands the other person who controls the pitches. There stands the pitching coach.
Leaning up against the railing of the Missouri softball team's dugout with a clipboard full of stats in hand, Pete D’Amour gives the pitch call to the catcher, Jenna Marston. Silently communicating with his hands, he holds up a different number of fingers to signify each pitch. Four fingers, then one, then three.
Marston receives the call, then looks down at her pitch wristband to confirm what he wants. She relays it to the pitcher, usually Chelsea Thomas, and slides her glove into position.
Missouri pitchers have thrown four perfect games and 13 no-hitters during D’Amour’s seven seasons as an assistant coach for the Tigers, but he doesn’t want to take any of the credit.
“He’s not the person who would do that,” junior utility player Brianna Corwin said. “He’d just be like, ‘Good game Chelsea, it’s all you.’”
Before the final out of a perfect game is made, before the first pitch of a game is thrown, D’Amour is preparing. He watches film of the opposing team's batters to find their weaknesses and see how the Missouri pitchers can take advantage of them.
During the games, D’Amour’s work is continuous. When Missouri’s on defense, he is calling the pitches and signaling to the catcher. When Missouri bats, he is trying to watch for the change-up of the opposing pitchers and figuring out what pitches to call in the next inning.
“Everything he does is unbelievable,” Corwin said. “He is definitely the behind-the-scenes guy who doesn’t get the credit for everything he does for the team.”
He would never say that he deserves the credit, and when he played for two seasons on the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi baseball team and later in a men's travel softball league, D’Amour was no different. He wanted to let his actions speak for himself rather than his words.
Now as an assistant coach, D’Amour uses his words to reassure head coach Ehren Earleywine.
“I’m an ear for him to talk to, and I don’t like to be combative with him,” D’Amour said. “I’m just here as a supportive role for him.”
In the head coach’s eyes, D’Amour is more than a great pitching coach and pitch caller, he’s a friend. Earleywine has especially enjoyed having D’Amour to talk to this season. The pitching rotation suddenly changed when the Tigers' No. 2 thrower left the team, and weather has caused about a dozen of the Tigers games to be canceled.
“Through the drama and difficulties we’ve had this year, it’s nice to have a place to go where you can share those difficulties and share those hard times together,” Earleywine said.
One of D’Amour’s biggest challenges this season has been helping Nicole Hudson and Lindsey Muller transition back to significant pitching roles after not being in the circle since 2011. With help from D’Amour, Hudson and Muller have become more reliable pitching options than Missouri coaches expected.
“He’s been so helpful, just in general,” Hudson said. “I can get flustered when I’m pitching. He’s pretty good about calming me down.”
D’Amour recognizes that some players need to be calmed down, while others need to be encouraged in a humorous way. This is especially evident when he’s in the bullpen.
With music playing in the background, backup catcher Rachel Hay can usually be heard singing as she warms up Hudson – something D’Amour is quick to give Hay a hard time for.
“The more I’m in this sport, the more I see that when girls are loose, but still serious at the same time, that’s when they perform the best,” D’Amour said. “So Rachel can take it.”
Since his playing days, and even the beginning of his tenure at Missouri, D’Amour has become more verbal. He likes talking to the players now and creating a rapport with them, but he still remains the silent leader in the corner of the dugout, giving credit to players in victories and taking the blame for himself in losses.
“I love it here,” D’Amour said. “It’s been a fun ride so far, and it’s just going to get better.”
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.
No. 4 Tennessee (42-7, 15-4 SEC)
at No. 11 Missouri (31-9, 13-7 SEC)
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, noon Sunday
WHERE: University Field
TV: Saturday's game will be on ESPN