May 2, 2002
They are the Mantle and Maris of the Chenango Valley. Madison County's Mays and McCovey. You've heard of the Bash Brothers, right? Well, these are the Smash Sisters, and the best piece of advice that can be offered to you on their behalf is this: Park your car with great prudence.
Beyond each foul line is good. Somewhere behind the dugouts is better. But on the far side of the outfield fence? That is not a very sound idea at all. Not when Natalie Rawson or Dorothy Donaldson is in the batter's box for the Colgate University Raiders.
Be advised that neither is the windshield's best friend. And the proof can be found right there on the Colgate softball team's stat sheet, which shows that Rawson and Donaldson - the former, a freshman from Southern California; the latter, a freshman from Central Florida - have 13 and 12 home runs, respectively. That's 13 and 12 homers at a school where the single-season record for such things had been four rounding into the 21st century.
"I get mesmerized, I do, when I watch them hit," said the Raiders' coach, Vickie Sax. "I watch the balls come off their bats and I'm thinking, 'This is unbelievable.' But what I find even more exciting is what happens to the rest of the ballclub because our players have never been in the presence of young women who can hit a ball so far and so hard."
How far? Well, Rawson bashed one against Lehigh last month that landed on top of a batting cage which sat 20 feet from the left-field wall, which sat 230 feet from home plate. How hard? Um, Donaldson has already dented two different $300 bats and is working on a third.
"Natalie and Dorothy play into my style of coaching," said Sax, whose squad is 28-18 and headed for this weekend's Patriot League Tournament in Bethlehem, Pa., where a berth in the 48-team NCAA Tournament will be on the line. "Yes, you have to have bunts. Yes, you have to have the slapping game. But there's nothing like good, old-fashioned power. And they've got it."
As it turns out, neither Rawson, a second baseman, nor Donaldson, a right fielder, has much of a clue why this is so. But then, why would they? As high school seniors last spring, Natalie hit just two homers and Dorothy hit only three. And now look at them: Their combined 25 dingers in Colgate's 46 games computes to 88 over a major-league baseball campaign. Or 15 more than Barry Bonds ripped last year for the San Francisco Giants.
"I have no idea," said Rawson, who was 2-for-5 (including a two-run homer) in Wednesday afternoon's doubleheader sweep of Marist at Eaton Field to thus finish the regular season with a .341 batting average. "Well, maybe my mentality is better. In high school, there were more rivalries. When I went up to hit, I'd know everyone. It was more personal. Here, because I don't know anybody, my head is kind of clear at the plate. So it's not even that big a deal to me anymore. When I hit one, it's like, 'I hit a home run. That's cool.'"
"I don't know what's going on," said Donaldson, who went 3-for-7 during the Raiders' 1-0 and 9-6 wins over the Red Foxes and will lug a club-leading .377 average to Bethlehem. "This is completely unexpected. Practice maybe? I think I'm more relaxed here. In high school, there was always pressure to do well so you could impress some particular college coach who was in the stands. Now, I'm just totally comfortable. But to tell you the truth, I never even think about it. If a home run can help us win a game, then great. I'm happy to help out."
Now, as each stands around 5-foot-5, neither is particularly imposing. And because long swings are little more than outmakers in the cramped world of softball, both Natalie and Dorothy have mastered short, tight cuts. Just as George Foreman supposedly knocked people out with punches that traveled barely 12 inches, so, too, have Donaldson and Rawson managed to abuse pitchers with mighty cuts fueled almost exclusively by their forearms and wrists.
"They swing it," said Bob Cornell, Colgate's esteemed publicist and a long-time baseball man, "like Hank Aaron used to."
There is more to these two young women, though, than slow trots around the bases. Rawson's story revolves around her daily competition in California with two softball-playing sisters - Melissa, a junior shortstop at Colgate, and Nichole, a twin and fellow freshman who pitched for Marist against the Raiders (and lost on Amanda Paolucci's, one-out, seventh-inning, walk-off home run) in Wednesday's opener. Donaldson's tale, meanwhile, centers around a damaged heart that featured four holes and a faulty artery and required surgery in Florida at the age of 4.
Moreover, each is a delight. Natalie is as breezy as any of those girls who inspired all those Beach Boys songs and Dorothy has a sunny disposition that is a virtual mirror of Tony Gwynn's. As they plan to room together next year as sophomores, we can assume that they'll inspire as many smiles in their living quarters as they will shudders out there inside those pitching circles. And as Sax's father has nicknamed Rawson "the Rocket" and Donaldson "the Missile," shudders there will likely be for a good, long while.
"I'm telling you," said Sax, "it's amazing. From the moment of contact, they have sheer acceleration. And the results are the same. It's just that, you know, Natalie and Dorothy have different kinds of air transmission."
And at the end of certain flights launched by these Smash Sisters, the windshields of imprudent parkers, home and away, are at risk. You are, therefore, advised on the powerful matter of Natalie Rawson and Dorothy Donaldson. Home runs, you see, are only beautiful until they crash. Then, they can create an awful mess.