Cal Poly pitching sensation Anna Cahn takes the mound. She is a force to be reckoned with. This has been true since she started playing travel softball at age 11 in her home town of Los Alamitos, Calif. From the mound, she helped lead the way to many “W’s” for the 18-and-under team she played on. After one game in particular, her coach pulled her aside.
“He asked me, ‘Do you hear what the other coach is yelling right now?” Cahn said. “(The coach) was saying, ‘How do you feel? You just got beat by a 12-year-old.'”
From that point on, a star was born. Despite the rapid success, she never let it get to her head. As a young player among 18-year-olds already committed to colleges, the other players influenced Cahn’s competitive nature, she said.
“I was so young and innocent,” Cahn said. “I was this little Orange County girl, and I was playing with girls from places like South Torrance. These were some hard girls.”
Cahn remained the innocent girl she was, a quality which probably stems from her upbringing in a devout Jewish household, her mother, Mary said. If Mary had not nudged Cahn in the right direction, she would’ve spent every waking moment on the field.
“By keeping her grounded, (her father and I) made sure she did well in school and her religious studies,” Mary said.
In fact, Cahn even invited her travel team to the bat mitzvah, which Mary said took precedence over some weekend games.
“I remember I gave all (my teammates) invitations and told them it was in two weeks, but they were all, ‘No, sorry, we want to go party,” Cahn said.
Still, Cahn didn’t let this social faux pas phase her. She went on to become a starting pitcher for Cal Poly, bringing with her a few superstitions.
Krysten Cary, who was one of Cahn’s closest friends when they played together, said Cahn’s superstitions were rooted in her head.
“When she came in as a freshman, she had really long blond hair and she always wore it in a long single braid,” Cary said. “If she didn’t wear it, she felt like she was off.”
Conversely, if you ask Cahn, she would say she is superstitious only to a degree. This is probably because her team helped her overcome some of her superstitions when they convinced Cahn to chop her locks. Cary said this helped get her out of her bubble.
Cahn didn’t lose her sense of humor without her signature french braid, though.
To share her sense of humor, Cary said Cahn would show up to practice every day with a new YouTube video to show her teammates before practice.
“She would find the weirdest, craziest videos to share with all of us,” Cary said.
And if Cahn was the only one to laugh, it wouldn’t matter.
“One quality I admire most about (Cahn) is that she really doesn’t care about appearances,” Mary said. “She isn’t inhibited if people think she looks silly because she’s always laughing. She just likes to have fun.”
Even though she lives by herself in a two-bedroom house, which serves as a hotel for her parents on game weekends, she has plenty of gadgets around the house to keep herself in good spirits.
“(Her house) looks like the home shopping network,” Cary said. “She has a stationary bike from the ’40s that she actually still works out on. And she has a foot-massager-vibrator thing that she’ll just post up on the couch with and use for hours.”
Cahn does need all the relaxation she can get. She is heading into her senior year, and her success thus far has landed her on the 2011 Amateur Softball Association Player of the Year Watch List.
“Going from Big West Pitcher of the Year (in 2009) to the player she is now just shows her versatility,” head coach Jenny Condon said. “She is a factor in the circle and with a bat in her hand.”
Cahn’s batting expertise set her apart to make her a well-rounded player that can help her team both defensively and offensively, Condon said.
“When I’m pitching, I feel like batting is my relaxation part,” Cahn said. “My part that I can just swing the bat and hit as hard as I can — sometimes that isn’t what you want to do — but when I get the chance, I really try to help the team as much as I can.”
The best part is Cahn doesn’t let her skill go to her head.
“The great thing about the team is that it’s not just the Anna Cahn show,” Condon said. “She has a great supporting cast. There isn’t one superstar that makes or breaks us if we’re on.”
Luckily for Cahn, she has a team willing to bring 100 percent to the field, because when the season hit full swing last year, her pitching force slowed down.
In the 2010 season, freshman pitcher Rebecca Patton took the mound after a streak of losses plagued the team before, and into the first game of, conference play. Patton was up for the challenge and split pitching time with Cahn in conference games.
But Condon doesn’t see this playing time trade as a negative, in fact, it is the opposite.
“I think (we) work well together,” Condon said. “We don’t want to solely rely on one (player). If they’re on, great. If they’re off, they need to be dealt with.”
For now, Cahn is looking to get a running start to success during her final season.
“My coach said this year is my ‘victory lap,’” Cahn said. “I told her, ‘No, this isn’t. It’s my homestretch.’ I just have to keep going hard every inning, every game, with every pitch. Balls out.”