As a catcher for the Columbia College softball team, Stephanie Stowe is used to people barreling down the third base line at her so they can get to home plate. But, in the other sport that Stowe grew up playing, physical play was also a part of the game. There were body checks and fighting and spearing, not to mention a frozen puck flying through the air at speeds in excess of 100 mph.
Growing up in Beulah, Manitoba, Canada, where hockey is a way of life, Stowe quickly fell in love with the sport. She didn’t start playing organized hockey until she was 11, but she said the sport has been a part of her life since she can remember.
Stowe said if anyone looked in her backyard in the winter, all they would see was an ice rink. Every winter her dad would build a rink in her backyard so her and her two brothers could play. She said that where she grew up, hockey is a community thing, and all she had to do was either call some friends, or walk down the street to find people that wanted to get a pick-up game started.
Although Stowe started playing softball three years before hockey, she said hockey helped her become the softball player that she is today.
“Hockey kept me in shape when I wasn’t playing softball, physically and all,” Stowe said. “They both have a lot to do with physicalness and endurance. There is no body checking per se in softball, but hockey is a lot more physical and in your face.”
Being a catcher, Stowe has to squat behind home plate for a seven-inning game, which usually lasts around 2 hours. Many times she plays in two or three games per day. Stowe said the skating she did while playing hockey helped her build strong legs that can endure long stretches behind the plate, and that hockey also helped her arm strength.
“Playing hockey really builds arm strength,” Stowe said. “It might not seem like it, but it does. You take a lot of shots and you have to have strong arms to have a good shot. Softball is the same way, especially at catcher. You have to have a strong arm to throw the ball when someone is trying to steal. Hockey really helped me build that strength.”
The two sports helped Stowe remain active and in good physical condition year-round. When softball ended, hockey started.
After Stowe graduated from high school three years ago, she decided to hang up her skates because she was coming to the United States to play softball in college. She said that she wanted to focus on softball and didn’t want hockey to interfere. She said she chose softball because she felt she had more skills in softball, but she said she sometimes thinks about hockey and misses playing it competitively.
“There is just nowhere around,” Stowe said. “I don’t even know where the closest rink is. Besides I am way too busy with softball to even have time to play.”
However, Stowe said when she goes home for Christmas, she and her friends usually get together to play a few games.
Stowe played softball at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff the past two years. Last year she led the team in home runs, RBIs and doubles.
This year, her first with the Cougars, she is leading the team in batting average at .441 and RBIs with 40. Stowe’s presence in the lineup has been noticed by coach Wendy Spratt.
“She has really exceeded our expectations,” Spratt said. “She is one of our most improved players this year. She has really adjusted well coming to our team.”
Early in the season, Spratt moved Stowe up in the batting order from sixth to fourth. Stowe said that she has relished her new role as the clean-up hitter.
Stowe’s presence on the field will need to continue today as the Cougars travel to Springfield, Ill., for the American Midwest Conference Postseason Tournament. The Cougars will play Harris-Stowe State at 2 p.m. today.