By Jonathan Deal
Mary Jane Hobbs played softball at a pivotal time in the sport’s transition from slow-pitch to fast-pitch. Hobbs grew up playing slow-pitch fastball at Elkmont, and was offered a scholarship to play on one of Calhoun’s first softball teams under coach Myra King.
“That’s when junior colleges were all slow-pitch,” said Hobbs, who will be inducted in the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame on June 15. “They didn’t start fast-pitch until after I played. I would play fast-pitch in the summer time and switch back to slow-pitch for school.”
At Calhoun, Hobbs set a precedent for future players to follow by setting several records, many of which still stand. The Elkmont native led Calhoun to its first National Junior College Tournament, where the Warhawks finished as national runner-up.
Hobbs was named to the National Junior College All-Tournament team. She is Calhoun’s leader in fielding percentage, walks, most hits in a game and most doubles in a single game.
“I guess I just didn’t miss any balls,” said Hobbs about her records. “I played different positions everywhere I went. I made sure I made plays. Coach King was a stickler about doing your job. I just caught everything thrown to me.”
Hobbs made the transition from slow-pitch to fast-pitch and vice versa throughout her career. The Elkmont standout was part of Athens State’s first fast-pitch softball teams during her final two years of college. Once again, Hobbs had to make a transition.
“I remember playing in a slow-pitch tournament and having to report to Athens State on Monday,” said Hobbs. “It was an adjustment, but like anything else, you just had to practice.”
Whether it was fast or slow-pitch, one thing remained constant about Hobbs — her work ethic.
Hobbs said she learned the value of a strong work ethic early at Calhoun under King, and carried it with her at every stop along the way.
“She was one of the most dedicated players I’ve ever been around,” said teammate Ellen Daly Emfinger. “Her work ethic is unbelievable. She was dedicated and she loved the game. She had extremely quick reflexes and quick hands. Her ability to catch anything within reach is what sticks out in my mind about her.”
Emfinger should know. The Elkmont graduate played alongside Hobbs from childhood all the way to Athens State.
“We both hoped to play (softball) in college,” said Emfinger. “We parted ways for a year, then Larry Keenum offered us both scholarships at Athens State. We were fortunate to go and play together.”
Following a record-setting softball career at Calhoun, Hobbs attended the University of Alabama for one year before returning to Limestone County to play for the new program at ASU.
“It was nice, coming home to play,” said Hobbs. “We had a lot of followers who watched us play at Calhoun. The only difference was we were playing fast-pitch now instead of slow. It was kind of like a Calhoun reunion.”
Hobbs immediately became a coach at her high school alma mater after graduating from Athens State. She is in her 20th year as head softball coach Elkmont.