Youth softball: U go girl! Summer softball is well under way in Worthington
WORTHINGTON -- Summer girls softball is hot in southwest Minnesota, and especially in the Worthington area.
The Worthington Area Girls Softball Association oversees four youth traveling fast-pitch teams featuring players under age 10 all the way up to 18. Worthington Storm outfits are divided into 10U (10 and under), 12U, 14U and 18U, and there’s a 19-and-older team, too, though it’s not technically a part of the association.
Rachel Ponto, WAGS president and coach of the 18U team, said girls come from well outside the Worthington city limits to participate.
“We’ve got a lot of Worthington (high school) varsity players on the team. And then we’ve got some varsity players from Adrian and from Heron Lake-Okabena and Fulda. We’ve got a varsity player from Red Rock Central,” she said.
Players are busy, too. The 12U, 14U and 18U squads play an average of two nights each week during the regular season, and every date is a doubleheader. The season will last until July 19, and possibly longer if state tournament competition beckons.
Some girls also play on more than one team, said Ponto.
Two members of the Worthington 18U team, Sydney Ponto and Brittin Fauskee, are die-hard softball players.
“We both played on the 10-year-old team,” said Fauskee. “I started playing because my brother was in baseball. I started in T-ball. I got a call to get me to play with the softball team. I’ve been playing ever since.”
Continued Fauskee: “It’s helped me a lot with general fundamentals and skills. You only get a certain amount of work in school ball, but in the summer it just keeps growing.”
Rachel Ponto agrees. Summer ball can build on what the girls have learned in high school.
“This year in school they had Moz’s (Trojans varsity coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka) perspective. Being in summer ball, they’re getting other coaches’ perspectives. And playing with girls who they used to play against, now they’re teammates.”
These summer softball girls get around -- playing opponents from St. James, Fairmont, Windom, Sleepy Eye and New Ulm, just to name a few.
But it’s not super-serious all the time in the summer. And that just adds to the enjoyment, say Sydney and Brittin.
“I’ve made a lot of new friends. And it’s helped me improve my skills,” Sydney said. “In school ball, we take losses really hard. At least Brittin and I do. And that first game we lost (this summer), we hardly realized it because we were having so much fun with our teammates.”
Both Syd and Brit do more than just play. They both help coach the 10U team, and they both do umpiring.
“These are my go-to girls,” Rachel explains.
Sydney adds: “It’s not just about softball. Sometimes that point doesn’t come across. We just want to teach them fundamentals, and if we win or lose it doesn’t really matter so much.”
So it’s not just about softball?
Right. And, in fact, it’s not just about fundamentals, either.
Camaraderie and support goes not just from player to player, but from parent to player and back again. Parents sometimes get a reputation for being a little too serious about the games their kids play, but Rachel says the Worthington parents are outstanding.
“I can honestly say the Worthington group of parents are some of the best. They definitely stand up for every player on the field,” she said.
Oftentimes, the players stand up, too.
Brittin, Rachel and Sydney well remember the time a family member of one of the players died, and the visitation was inconveniently timed to take place just before the team was to travel to Austin for the state tournament.
Nevertheless, all the players wanted to support the family by showing up at the visitation -- even though they still had to leave that same night so they could be at the tournament by 8 a.m. When they came to the visitation together, the family was naturally shocked -- and comforted.
So it’s not just about softball? Right, indeed.