Feb. 18, 2004
Florida State’s trip to Mercer was a very memorable one for head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. The living legend joined the 1,000-win club for NCAA fast pitch wins with FSU’s 5-1 win over the Bears in Macon, GA. She is only the second Division I coach to ever reach that milestone and just the third coach overall in NCAA history to record 1,000 victories. Reaching that milestone erased any doubts that Graf is the greatest DI softball coach in the history of the game. No other coach with 1000 wins in any division has a higher winning percentage than Graf and no coach has more NFCA wins (slow pitch and fast pitch combined) than Graf’s 1218, almost 100 more than her next competitor. In 20 years at FSU Graf has never had a losing season and her teams have advanced to 16 NCAA Tournaments despite the fact that many came as at-large bids due to no conference affiliations. She currently ranks in the top four of every Division I ranking for coaches and is coming of her induction into the NFCA Hall of Fame. Recently, the legendary coach sat down for a few minutes with seminoles.com.
What does getting your 1000th fast pitch win mean to you?
It is a credit to all the players that have played at Florida State. Obviously, you don’t win 1000 games by yourself you’ve got to have a lot of great players. I have been lucky to have that at Florida State. It is really nice to get all the wins at one school as well. Florida State is my alma mater and it is a special place for me. It is kind of neat that is the only place I have ever coached and all 1000 wins came there. Hopefully we can add quite a few more wins to that number.
Do you remember your first win?
Not really. I do remember the first fast pitch season in 1984. When we switched over from slow pitch to fast pitch we had a lot of slow pitch players and we struggled hitting the ball at the beginning. Luckily we recruited a couple of really good pitchers and catchers. It was an interesting season. If we could keep a team at bay two times through the batting order, then the third time we started hitting because we would start to see the ball better. At first the players were swinging at everything. You really have to give credit to the players who came at that time. The deserve so much of the credit for starting the program and making us competitive immediately.
Was there any trepidation switching to fast pitch after winning two slow pitch national championships?
There wasn’t because I knew we had great athletes. I just didn’t know how fast we would become nationally competitive. I was pleased we were able to become competitive so quickly. I really had no knowledge of what the fast pitch teams around the country looked like or how we would stack up against them. When we actually played those teams, from an athletic standpoint, we were further ahead than they were. That was mainly because slow pitch players were so much stronger from a defensive standpoint. Offensively we were behind but I was so happy with where we stacked up immediately that first season and got off to such a fast start.
What was the geographic breakdown of the game when FSU made the switch in 1984?
It was very regional. If you lived in the Midwest or on the west coast, it was all fast pitch. If you lived in the south or certain parts of the Midwest you were playing slow pitch. Most of the states in the south were slow pitch along with the high school programs. That was tough for us since we were trying to recruit fast pitch high school players. We had to change how and where we recruited. We did still bring in some slow pitch players but we had to go out of state a lot more. It took a while to get high schools and junior colleges to transfer over to fast pitch.
Are there any of the 1000 fast pitch wins that are particularly memorable?
Sometimes I think you tend to remember the losses and the games you could have won more than the ones you did win. I think the championship wins and the wins in the World Series are always special and stick out. I think the players stick out more than the wins. To see how they have grown up, matured and become contributing members of society. They are raising families and those are the types of things you remember more than the wins and losses.