Volume 22, Number 30 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 4 - 10, 2009
Division I softball players from St. John’s gave tips to the Downtown Little League’s softball players this fall in P.S. 234.
Ball is soft but pitches can be fast, Downtown girls learn
While most Downtown kids were shooting hoops on the basketball court or launching penalty kicks on the soccer field, more than a dozen Lower Manhattan girls this fall were gearing up for the upcoming softball season with two-hour workouts led by players from the St. John’s University softball team.
The Downtown Little League has recruited varsity players from St. John’s, a Division I college, to coach the girls who will be starring on the diamond this spring. The initiative is one of several aimed at enhancing the level of play in the league’s 9-to-12-year-old division.
“We’re committed to this division,” said league president Tom Merrill. “We want the girls not only to have fun but to be able to complete a 6-4-3 double-play.”
The practices come in response to complaints that Downtown wasn’t fully committed to its softball program for girls in Tribeca, Battery Park City and the Financial District. Merrill said a mistaken notion had taken hold in Lower Manhattan that softball was secondary to a league that has begun to produce some of the top youth baseball teams in Manhattan.
In addition to the St. John’s clinics and other fall ball practices, softball parent Christopher O’Mara led a squad of 9-to-12-year-old girls for games against teams from the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side and Greenwich Village. The league is considering a similar travel team this spring for its younger girls, adding to a varsity team of 15- and 16-year-olds and a junior varsity team of 13- and 14-year olds.
“Our girls went against very good windmill pitching,” said O’Mara. “They played very well.”
The St. John’s practices, which were held in P.S. 234’s gym and courtyard, focused on windmill pitching, batting technique, and basics like throwing, fielding, base running and even bunting. Kat Lawrence, a star hurler for St. John’s, left girls gaping as she demonstrated the 64-mile-hour fastball she routinely tosses by opposing hitters.
“We couldn’t believe anyone could throw that fast,” said 10-year-old Sophia Marino. “They were teaching us how to do it.”
The Downtown practices, which are free and open to all girls in Lower Manhattan, will resume in January, shortly before the league selects rosters for the 2010 season. This year, the league is hoping to expand its softball division and wants to bring the St. John’s coaches to the Battery Park City fields to work with individual teams.
“We want Downtown softball to be as good as any program in Manhattan,” Merrill said.