Evolution, guts inspire last shot at lifelong love

Struggles plague season, student-athlete unfazed


Christian Urrutia / The Advocate

Comet pitcher Anna Palter lends supporting advice to her squad during a difficult season.

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

In life, people choose to walk away from the thing that they love for many different reasons; time constraints, new responsibilities or sometimes the passion just seems to fade away.

For first-year Comet pitcher and infielder Anna Palter it was a combination of things that made her walk away from softball after graduating from Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in 2012.

“It came as a shock. She wasn’t getting a lot of attention from some of the (colleges) she wanted to attend so I think she lost focus on sports and began to live more of the average teenage life,” Palter’s father Nick said. “I was surprised and disappointed, but we support her making her own decisions within reason.”

Palter grew up in an athletic atmosphere. Her parents are big San Francisco Giants fans and her father began taking her to games shortly after her birth, May 2, 1994.

It was those early days studying Giants players with her dad, Omar Vizquel in particular, that honed Palter’s feel for baseball and the cerebral side of the game.

When she was a child, Palter’s father recognized his daughter’s athleticism by enrolling her in Taekwondo and gymnastics, but it was softball that she ultimately gravitated toward and by age 11 Palter made her first all-star team.

In the following years, Palter would join a traveling team that barnstormed areas from Colorado to Las Vegas playing against tough competition in preparation for high school and college ball.

“In high school our team was not very good. We were always the underdog,” Palter said. “I had a bad temper and it was frustrating — it forced me to be a leader.”

Palter’s run of winning ball was waning but the softball gods had another obstacle in store for the infielder.

While playing shortstop in her junior year Palter suffered her first injury.

On a routine throw to catch a runner stealing second base, the first baseman’s throw ricocheted off of the runner’s helmet into Palter’s face, fracturing her orbital socket. She sat out a week and a half, missing a handful of games and then returned to action, finishing the season with her team.

“I try not to let injuries get to me,” Palter said. “I was kind of nervous my first game back, but getting hurt is not something I worry about.”

The following year, a knee injury forced the then high school senior to miss all but 10 games of the season, mentally depleting the athlete and easing her path toward walking away from the game.

After graduation, she enrolled at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo majoring in wine and viticulture, in hopes of pursuing a career in the wine industry.

Palter said she felt out of place from the moment she arrived at Cal Poly.

“It had that judgmental close-minded small town feel. It was devoid of that Bay Area acceptance. I felt secluded,” Palter said. “I regretted leaving softball. I identified as an athlete for so many years. It was hard to see who I was.”

Palter toughed it out in San Luis Obispo for three years sans her identity as an athlete which complicated her struggle to fit into her new environment.

The idea of returning home was not an option until a family emergency forced her to reconsider her choice of school.

“I couldn’t give up. I felt pressure from my parents to go to a good school,” Palter said. “I come from a (Cal) Berkeley family, parents, aunts, uncles. It was an elitist mindset — it’s hard to let go.”

Admittedly scared to play at SLO after so much time away from the game, Palter, now home, yearned for a return to softball. She sought the advice of her former pitching coach Al Estoesta who convinced her to give the game another go-round.

He also said he knew of a local coach that was looking for some players.

“Anna took lessons from my San Francisco State University coach and mentor and he recommended that she come and play for me,” softball coach Karolyn Gubbine said. “She’s the kind of player that you want on your team — I wish I had nine more of her.”

Since arriving in San Pablo, Palter has been a natural fit with her teammates. Her experience shines through and her personable disposition makes it easier for less experienced players to gravitate to her for leadership.

“She’s a natural salesman — not the used car kind. People like her,” Nick Palter said. “She seems to be able to get along with everyone. I can see her coaching in the future. She really loves the game.”

Comet third baseman Stacy Fernandez recognizes what Palter means to the squad.

“She’s great. She’s always supportive of us even through bad innings. She says positive things to get us through to the next good play. She’s a good teammate on and off of the field.”

The sentiment surrounding Palter is the same, from players and coaches alike.

“She’s one of the most intelligent players that I have seen on this level,” Comet assistant coach Claire Scott said. “She’s an extremely hard worker and can do anything she sets her mind to. “She is someone any coach would be lucky to have.”