By Laurie Los The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Nancy Sparrow's career path took her to Denver in 1995 and she's been there ever since. In 2004, she started her own business, "Sparrow Solutions", which provides support services and solutions to individuals, households and businesses.
Nancy Sparrow has a confession to make.
"I loved softball, but I had no vision of ever being a pitcher," said the 49-year-old Sparrow, who is regarded as Apponequet's all-time greatest pitcher in the program's storied history. "I loved hitting and being a shortstop in the middle of the action. I was like, 'I'll never be a pitcher.'"
That was until legendary softball coach Peter Looney took one look at her arm.
"My sister (Jen) was eight years older than me and I knew what it meant to play softball for Peter Looney at Apponequet," said Sparrow, a Lakeville native. "We all wanted to play for Peter Looney so in the eighth grade I went to one of his winter clinics with Janna (Venice). It was a pitcher's clinic and I was there catching. I happened to pass the ball back just for fun and coach Looney saw it. That was it.
"He was the best of the best and there were no questions."
Sparrow began training as a pitcher that winter and Looney primed her for varsity action by having her play on the freshmen team when she got to Apponequet.
"I was practicing all of the time, but I had no game experience," Sparrow said. "I progressed pretty quickly to throw hard and get down the fundamentals. Peter Looney had me playing freshmen ball so that I could gain confidence as a pitcher because I had never pitched. I had always played shortstop."
Sparrow was called up to varsity at the end of her freshman year and delivered a playoff win in her only inning of action. The Lakers went on to beat Greenfield 10-0 in the 1986 Div. 2 state championship.
By her sophomore year, Sparrow had established herself as Apponequet's ace. She went 12-1 with a 0.80 ERA that year as she helped the Lakers defend their Div. 2 state title by defeating Wahconah 7-1.
"When I was younger I had senior catchers so they were calling my pitches and I really trusted them," Sparrow said. "They were doing a lot of that. We just had so much confidence with each other knowing everyone was in their position and that they were exactly where they needed to be and they'd get the job done. It was a blast to win together and challenge each other."
As a junior, Sparrow allowed just two earned runs all season while throwing five no-hitters, including back-to-back no-nos, and posting a 13-1 record. She threw another no-hitter in the tournament to lead the Lakers to a third-straight Div. 2 state crown. She allowed just 10 base hits while striking out 113 batters for a 0.11 ERA during the regular season.
"I had six pitches I was very comfortable with: fastball, changeup, drop, rise, curve outside and curve inside," she said. "I was able to keep batters off-balance with the curves and offspeed, but I had a lot of depth with my pitches. I had really improved and gotten a lot of confidence."
Sparrow and the Lakers were heavily favored to capture a fourth-straight Div. 2 title her senior year, but errors proved to be costly and overshadowed an 18-strikeout performance from Sparrow in Apponequet's 2-1 loss to Oakmont in the 1989 championship game.
"I remember more about that game than the other games," said Sparrow. "It was a really tough way to go out. We were the better team on paper and we had the experience, but none of us could hit the slower pitcher. It wasn't anything we had seen before. We had strong hitters and it threw off our timing. We weren't able to adjust soon enough. Then we had errors. I had errors and it was very hard to go out in that way. We all felt like we had let each other down and the town down."
Thirty-one years later, Sparrow still thinks about that loss.
"With the loss, it's life-changing and a learning experience," said Sparrow, who admitted it was hard to get back out playing softball the next day for her Junior Olympic team. "Nobody put blame on one thing or one person. I've competed in a lot of sports as an adult and getting past that loss really built strength."
Over Sparrow's Hall of Fame career, she won 36 of 40 games and had a career ERA of less than a run. She also threw 13 no-hitters as a perennial South Coast Conference All-Star.
She also had a strong bat, hitting .345 with five home runs and 28 RBI as a junior and .534 with six home runs and 24 RBI as a senior.
"It was incredible," she said. "I had a lot of support from a lot of people along the way."
Sparrow also stood out as a forward in basketball, earning three All-Star nominations. She played three years of varsity field hockey as well, notching seven goals and 10 assists as a senior midfielder.
A versatile athlete, Sparrow had her pick when it came to college. "Princeton was looking at me for field hockey and softball and Brown was looking at me for basketball and Harvard for pitching," she said. "I just always had it in my head that college was going to be for the rest of my life, so I was very focused on choosing a college for education and not for sports. I knew I wasn't going to become a professional athlete in those sports so I was looking at college much more focused on a career and to win in life and business. Sports came second."
Sparrow -- who also received interest from softball programs at Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Connecticut -- decided she wanted to go the Ivy League route and Harvard University offered just what she wanted.
Sparrow studied psychology as it applied to business and started off as a softball player.
"For a number of reasons I only played freshman year," she said. "After playing one year at Harvard, I realized that I had taken softball as far as I needed to. For me, I had already played at the highest level with the Junior Olympics and at Apponequet so I thought I'd try something new so I did crew on a competitive club team."
After Sparrow graduated in 1993 with a psychology degree, she ventured out into the business world in Boston.
"I worked for several different companies -- entrepreneurial types," she said. "I learned a lot from there and helped grow businesses. I was given a lot of responsibility at a young age with building teams and building networks."
Sparrow's career path took her to Denver in 1995 and she's been there ever since. In 2004, she started her own business, Sparrow Solutions, which provides support services and solutions to individuals, households and businesses.
"On the business side, we provide day-to-day business management and support to small business and entrepreneurs," she said. "Our residential divisions include landscaping, handyman/repair/remodel, property management, personal support and concierge services as well as catering and prepared meal services."
Sparrow said she uses her background in sports to manage her six businesses.
"Many of the lifelong lessons I learned at Apponequet, I use in running my businesses today," she said. "It's a blast. I have great teams. A lot of my training is from playing those team sports and working together. I've learned to play to their strengths and be supportive, make an impact and allow them to grow."