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Fast Pitch Softball Set To Begin New-Look Season:

Santa Monica youngsters have been participating in the Bobby Sox softball program since 1980.With the 27th season scheduled to begin February 25, the girls will shift from Bobby Sox to a different organization, the ASA (American Softball Association), which is the official group for the United States Olympic team.“Bobby Sox was the originator but ASA has become much larger,’’ explains Santa Monica Fast Pitch President Marty Kreman. “There are more leagues and more opportunities for our participants. We’ll be able to put a better product on the field.’’Kreman and Jim Hall came into the league a dozen years ago and have served in varaious capacities. Hall is a former league president who is currently the league’s training co-ordinator. He has coached championship teams. “A lot will remain the same,’’ said Hall. “We’ll still have about 300 girls competing in five age groups. We’ll still have all-star teams at the end of the season who’ll compete against teams from other cities and states.“And we’re likely to keep sending players on to Santa Monica High. About half of Samohi High’s Ocean League championship team last season came from our program.’’ Santa Monica’s youngsters did extremely well last season. Of the five age group all-star teams who participated in post-season play in Orange County, four qualified for advancement to the national tournament in Hawaii and two won national championships.The 18-and-under team defeated Pico Rivera in the national championship game, The 8-and-under team won its national championship game from Milinai, Hawaii.Santa Monica teams have won eight national age group championships since the first Santa Monica league was formed in 1980 with only two teams.Members of last season’s Samohi team from the program included Christine Foley, Lara Bowie, Hana Peters, Alyson Herman and Kara Elander.On January 28 the Samohi varsity and junior varsity put on two clinics for the girls, led by Coach Debbie Skaggs.“That was wonderful,’’ said Hall. “Our kids can see her kids and Debbie is very supportive of us, very willing to show us the way she does things.“Not every one of our players will go on in softball. For example, my two daughters went through the program but are now concentrating on sailing. Kaytlin Hall is now on the sailing team at Roger Williams College in Rhode Island. Her younger sister, Ryann, was a member of two Bobby Sox national championship teams but is also concentrating on sailing now.“But our program emphasizes physical fitness and that’s helpful throughout life.’’ Hall co-ordinates projects ranging from producing how-to books for libraries to training videos.The girls play on weeknights at Clover Park and on weekends at Memorial Park. Since February 25 is a Saturday, the opening festivities will be at Memorial Park, with the first game scheduled for 9 a.m. and the last one due to begin at 6 p.m.The league has grown from its modest beginning to the present – age groups ranging from six years old to 16 with about eight teams in every one.The teams have fun with their names but play is competitive. Last season’s regular season champions in eight-and-under was “Trouble.” The playoff champion was “White Lightning.” The 11-and-under regular season winner was “Twizzlers,” the playoff champion “Ice, Ice Baby. “In the 14-and under division “Heffalumps” was first in the regular season and “We’re No. 1” prevailed in the playoffs.The league’s list of outstanding players includes 14-and-under pitchers Gabie Levesque and Christiana Cavanaugh, 12-and under pitcher Natalie Abel and catcher Kelly Ricard, 10-and-under pitchers Molly Steinberg and Jamie Hom and 8-and under pitcher Kaitlin Cavanaugh, Christiana’s sister.The spring season will continue until June 10. All-star teams will be selected and will play into August. A Fall league starts in September.It’s possible for some girls to play 40 games a year. That sounds like a lot until you realize that in other cities traveling teams are formed and play on weekends virtually all year.Some Santa Monica players join traveling teams but the concept isn’t embraced here as much as elsewhere.“Softball for girls began many years ago on a smaller field with less athletic players,” said Kreman. “It has evolved into a very fast game with outstanding athletes. The pitching mound is only 60 feet away and the batter has to decide very quickly whether to swing at a pitch.”Ken Shaevel is another league administrator. He contributed to this article via cell phone even though he was on the East Coast on business.John Heavens serves as assistant coach.

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