In the Locker Room with Maria Chutko, First-year Stealing Sensation


Photo Courtesy of Kasey Samuel Adams

Chutko is one of three players to start all 30 games for the softball team.

Maria Chutko, a first-year and outfielder from Pittsburgh, just broke the Oberlin softball team’s record of bases stolen in a single year. Chutko has currently stolen 23 bases, crushing the previous record of 17. Softball is 8–22 with eight games left in the season, and Chutko hopes to continue challenging herself and the team.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Walk me through the process of stealing a base. When do you decide it’s the right time to steal?

Basically, we have signs, and our coach gives us a sign to steal. The way that it works in softball is that when you’re on a base and you get the sign to steal — the pitcher doing her motion, which is when she picks up her back foot — is when you leave that base to steal.

How does your ability as a baserunner affect how you look at softball when fielding?

Whenever you get a ball in the field, you try to think about what the runners are doing and how they’re going to be running. Then you can think about where you want to throw the ball. You can also think about your next play after you get the ball, just anticipating what they are doing.

What’s your favorite memory of stealing a base this season?

I would say there’s two. One of them would be when I stole third base, and then our coach was like, “You just broke the record.” That was pretty cool. And then the other one was a moment in our game against Capital University where we were actually down by one run in the last inning, and I had gotten on base. We had two outs and I had gotten on base, and the catcher bobbled the ball. So I took off to go to second after she bobbled it and I almost got out, but I ran into the shortstop really hard, so she didn’t get me out and the ball got away from her. Then I was able to get a hit in because of that. If I had gotten out there, then we wouldn’t have won the game and had that walk off.

Has base-stealing always been an asset of your game, or did the Oberlin coaches help make it a strength of yours?

It’s definitely not been an asset of my game in the past. Our coach this year, Coach Julie Pratt, is super aggressive. That’s one of the main aspects of the game she focuses on — being really aggressive with stealing bases. Nine out of ten times, if you get on, she’s gonna send you. That’s definitely not been something in the past where I have been like, “Oh, I have so many stolen bases.” That’s been implemented this year because of our coach.

You’ve already set the record of stolen bases as a first-year with eight games left in the season. What are your personal goals, both at bat and on the bases, for the rest of the season? Do you think you can best your record in the next three years?

I definitely think that’s a good challenge to set, because I’ll be growing as a player throughout the next three years, so hopefully I can try to beat my record. I would say that for the rest of the season, my goal as a hitter is to stay consistent. One of the goals I always have is to try to go .500 each game. Normally when I bat in the lineup, I get up four times a game, so usually I’ll try to get a hit two out of those four times. I think this program is going in the right direction. We’ve obviously had a little bit of a rough past few seasons, in terms of our record and stuff like that, but our new coach, she knows so much about the game, and I think she’s really changing this program for the better.