Fastpitch furious

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

Fastpitch softball in Selma has taken a step up since its introduction to younger girls in the Selma Recreation league two years ago.

Five athletes are doing what they can to take it a step further.

Email newsletter signup

NSA softball players Ciera Ingram, Avery Mott, Kendall Veach, Whitney Denson and Cassie Daniels, ranging in age from 10-14, enjoy the game and enjoy competing. Ingram, Mott and Daniels play with the Prattville Thunder 14-under team. Denson plays with the Freedom Fastpitch (Clanton) 12-under team, and Veach plays with the Bama Babes (Montgomery) 10-under team.

“The girls a lot of time treat you like a second family,” Daniels said. “We spend so much time together.”

Alabama is beginning to catch up with other states in how serious softball is taken, travel ball in particular.

Tournaments during the summer sometimes include about 100 teams, and college scouts routinely make visits to each one.

Teams drive for several hours and can play anywhere from six to 10 games in a weekend or more.

But don’t expect to hear a lot of complaints from the players.

“We get to meet a lot of new people,” Ingram said. “The tournaments are more fun.”

When the Selma Parks and Recreation Department expanded its fastpitch program two years ago, it took measures to make sure no player was excluded. Slowpitch softball is still offered because, as Parks and Recreation director Elton Reece put it, fastpitch is not for everyone.

“We’ve had fastpitch for 15 to 18-year-olds for nine or 10 years, and we introduced it to 9 to 14-year-olds a few years ago,” Reece said. “We’ve taken it slow because in every other department I’ve seen, when you go to fastpitch participation drops 30 percent. We’re not going to do anything to keep anyone from playing.”

The obvious problem with converting to fastpitch is adapting the pitchers and catchers.

Martin Middle School coach Gaylen Denson said the process has taken as long as two years with rough spots along the way. But because of the raw talent in Selma and Dallas County, he has seen players immediately compete with other teams in every other aspect of the game.

“We have athletes, and the fielding is right up there with everyone else,” Denson said. “It takes a lot of training to get the pitching and hitting up to that level. When we first walked on the field, players that had never played fastpitch before were fielding and throwing as good as anybody.”

Most of the girls are pitchers, and they can spend up to three hours a day three times a week throwing. They also attend camps and clinics throughout the year.

Then they have to spend time refining the other parts of their games.

“We go through a lot of drills,” Whitney Denson said. “There are hitting drills and fielding drills. We work on outside hitting and off slant tees and go through short hop drills.”

The ultimate goal of all the players is to go on to college, but first they would like to see Selma get its own travel ball team.

Although the talent isn’t lacking, that process will take more interest and money.

But not having a local team won’t keep any of the players from playing.

And for some, it’s hard to tell what they like best.

“I like everything,” Veach said. “I like hitting and catching. I’ll play anywhere you put me.”