Heather Tarr settled into one side of a wooden picnic table. Under the shade of a large, leafy tree that helped block the summer sun, Washington’s softball coach thought about the past.
Behind the coach, one of the Everest Park little league diamonds sat empty. This field, the park and people who played there, helped mold the coach into the person she is today. Her journey is intertwined with Washington softball. Her growth runs parallel to the program she coaches.
At this particular moment, though, she is thinking about someone else, someone she has never met, but shares something in common. Returning to this field brought back memories that go back to her childhood, but right now she is focused on Mo’ne Davis, the first girl to record a win and pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series.
“Every time I watched her, it brought tears to my eyes,” Tarr said.
When Davis was pitching, it was as if she provided a conduit that connected Tarr to her past.
“Oh my gosh, that was me back then,” she would think to herself. “Kind of a League-of-Their-Own-type thing. When she was pitching, she was the person every guy on the team looked to for leadership and performance.
“I wasn’t as good as Davis. I didn’t pitch like her, but I know I had similar experiences. Looking at her and knowing what that experience is going to do for her when she’s 20 and 30 and 40 years old, I’m empowered by that.”
Back when Tarr played baseball, her team never made it to Williamsport, Pa. for the Little League World Series. Things were different back then.
But her District 9 All-Star team did make it all the way to West Regional in San Bernardino, Calif. And, after thinking about Davis’ experience, Tarr turned the spotlight on herself.
“Playing baseball and being the only girl on every team I was on was a pretty cool experience,” she said. “I didn’t realize it at the time but, looking back on it, I know I get a lot of my confidence from that, knowing I hit home runs off guys when I was 10 and 12 years old.”
Her little league coach, Tom D’Amico, always made sure none of her teammates treated her poorly because she was a girl. One of her teammates, Jeff D’Amico – now her brother-in-law – pitched in the big leagues. And her husband, J.T. D’Amico, well, at the time he was the older brother who would throw batting practice.
“I never thought I would marry him, but he was always this fascinating person growing up,” Tarr said.
Baseball and softball have been as much a part of her personal life as her athletic and coaching career for as long as she can remember.
“Things keep bringing me back,” Tarr said with a smile.
Tarr played at Everest Park in high school. She returns to the field each year for the Junior Softball World Series.
“I try to be present, not only to help softball and its growth, but because there’s a lot that goes on here at the 13- and 14-year-old level that I think is cool,” Tarr said.
When Tarr was growing up, she never planned on playing softball. Not in high school. Not in college. Her goal was to become the first woman to play Major League Baseball.
“Those things just didn’t exist,” she said.
However, by the time Tarr was preparing for college, Washington launched its softball program. The Huskies’ first season was in 1993. Teresa Wilson quickly converted the Huskies into a contender with Tarr joining the program in its second year.
“Title IX is the impetus behind a lot of the opportunities we’ve had in softball,” Tarr said. “For kids to be able to grow up looking at college softball as something they want to do at young ages is just beyond what I can comprehend, because it just didn’t even exist.”
Tarr was instrumental in helping form the program first as a player and now as its coach. The Huskies have been to the Women’s College World Series 11 times, winning a national championship in 2009.
The program has grown steadily, matching the sport’s development stride for stride.
“I take a lot of pride in knowing the history and tradition of the whys and whatfores and how the program was founded,” Tarr said.