© Katie Brickman
Allegra Nelson of the Panthers hits a single during the first inning of the opening night for the Moose Jaw and Dirstrict Girls Fastball league on Monday evening at Optimist Park.
The anticipation ended on Monday evening for over 300 young athletes. All the hard work in practices and all the effort in the off-season were seen as the Moose Jaw and District Minor Girls Fastball league opened up their season.
“We’re all set to go,” said Bob Marzolf, league president. “Everyone to ready to play ball.”
Bagpiper Michelle Carline led the Moose Jaw Royal Canadian Legion and the teams in a procession onto the field before the national anthem was sang and Gord Currie of the Friendly City Optimist Club and Jess Blair, president of ACT threw out the first pitch.
With over 300 boys and girls in six different divisions, the league still maintains healthy numbers, especially in the Learn to Play division. There are eight teams in the Learn to Play, five teams in squirt, six in mite, four in pee wee, three in bantam and one in midget.
“We are down a bit from last year in some of our older years, primarily because there was a national rule change that third year midgets can’t play,” explained Marzolf. “Our younger years are all staying constant.”
Despite the slight decline in numbers, those players that sign up usually come back year after year to play competitively. The athletes begin in the Learn to Play division to learn the basic of the sport and continue up through the leagues where they are faced with more challenges and tougher opposition.
“We’ve got great coaches, a great board that keeps everything going and as they progress, it keeps getting harder and more skill levels and they have fun,” said Marzolf. “They can’t wait to get playing ball. Fastball lives up to its name and it is a faster game than baseball.”
There will be 225 games played at the Optimist diamonds this season, as all teams are scheduled to play 12 games, without rainouts. There will also be three tournaments that the teams will play in throughout the season. The season will wrap up on June 30th before provincials occur.
“It is a great sport for these girls and boys to participate in,” said Marzolf. “They develop friendships that last a lifetime and that’s why we try to keep the tradition going.”