BY JEFF FALK
I’ve never been big on the idea of awarding trophies for participation. But ultimately participation leads to competition.
And it’s competition that produces the trophies.
The plight and story of the Lebanon County Girls’ Fastpitch League is certainly an interesting one. The local summer recreational league has been around for a few years now, but its history is sketchy.
The Lebanon County Girls’ Fastpitch League exists for three reasons: To keep local girls busy and provide them with a wholesome summer activitiy; To teach the basics and fundamentals of the game of softball; and to foster and hone those skills as a way of support for local scholastic softball.
The Lebanon County Girls’ Fastpitch League is doing a great job in two of those areas, and working dilligently on the third.
Tim White is the third-year director of the local summer softball league.
“The purpose is to provide more competitive softball for Lebanon County,” said White. “The purpose is to provide more playing time. To provide opportunities for girls not participating in scholastic programs. Ultimately, it’s about the kids. I’m trying to promote more involvement with high school coaches. This is where it starts. If high schools can recognize the importance of the rec program, I think it could be a win-win for both sides.
“I’ve always seen the league as being two-fold,” added White. “You want to get girls playing the game. But it’s also meant to be competitive.”
The Lebanon County Girls’ Fastpitch League plays a modest ten-game schedule that is squeezed into the month of June, one that was just recently completed. As a way of being able to accommodate doubleheaders, the circuit plays its games at diamods in Prescott, Newmanstown and Richland.
The season is highlighted by an end-of-the-year all-star game.
But what makes the league unique is that it pits players and teams from all over Lebanon County against one another.
“We can’t start until June because of high school games,” said White. “No, ten games doesn’t sound like a lot. In general, what you have with the 18s is sort of a continuation of seasons. At Annville, we kept the high school team together. It wasn’t the first time we’ve been able to do that.
“There has been more growth over the last three years,” continued White. “There are other things we do compete with, including other sports. Travel ball seems like it’s become dilluted. If you want your kid to pay and pony up, then they’ll play.”
Actually, the Lebanon County Girls’ Fastpitch League is comprised of four separate leagues made up of different age groups – 10-and-under, 12-and-under, 14-and-under and 18-and-under. In all, there are about 28 different teams across the four divisions.
If there are 12 players on each team, that would mean that nearly 350 girls are competing in the local summer league.
“I think it’s very important,” said White. “Because obviously physical activitiy is important to any young person. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t matter how old or young you are. Beyond winning and losing and championships, I see it as teaching you to work together with other people. It teaches you how to handle disappointment. You can’t win all the time. And it builds friendships.
“One of the things we see is that when kids get past 14s, they decided to do other things,” added White. “Some play different sports. Some get jobs. When they get to 18s, they don’t always come back to softball.”
Lacking attention and consistent media coverage, the history of the Lebanon County Girls’ Fastpitch League is blurry. It would seem that the circuit dates back at least 20 years, into the end of the last century, and it would also seem that its popularity has enjoyed growth spurts as well as down turns.
“Not all of the teams are at the same level,” said White. “At 10s, you’re teaching the game. There are some teams who are stonger than others. We have some teams who are rebuilding and they’re not as strong. That could be for a number of reasons. Our teams do the best they can. But sometimes competition can be a little lop-sided.”
The key to the on-going success of the league seems to be the interacting and communication with the local high school softball coaches, some of whom are said to be invovled with the league and some of whom aren’t.
The 2018 scholastic softball season was an uneven one in Lebanon County. Some teams struggled mightily to compete, while others advanced in the playoffs as far as the second round of districts. But none made it to states.
In has been a number of years since a local scholastic team has won a league or district championship.
“Repetition teaches muscle memory,” said White. “It’s not just the time we spend with them. We encourage them to do things outside of practice. That helps them develop their skills. Just throw a ball. Play some catch. Field some ground ball. The kids have to start somehwere. They start here. We want them to be able to play.
“We can only improve as much as it relates to those who want to be involved in our league,” White added. “We’ve always seen our teams as feeder programs for the high school teams.”
The Lebanon County Girls’ Fastpitch League couldn’t do what it does without a score of committed coaches. They don’t get paid, but that doesn’t mean the jobs they do go unrewarded.
“I enjoy working with the kids,” said White. “I think it’s important. This needs to be in place. It needs to be sustained, from the standpoint of the future. To see them play and succeed is very rewarding. They put the time in, but I try to encourage them. You try to provide opportunities, as they go up through. You do the best you can. As a coach, I’ve always felt I could do better, try a little harder.
“Our coahces are the reason our league exists,” White continued. “Without them, there would be no league. I’m a small part of a larger whole. I get a lot of help from various people.”
If the numbers in the league continue to grow, so will the competitiveness of it. If the circuit can keep girls interested and invovled, softball will ultimately return to its position as one of Lebanon County’s finest.
“I’d definitely like to see more teams in each division,” said White. “The number of games are challenging. I’d like to see more partnerships with high school coaches. I’d definitely like to see more girls playing softball, because it’s a great sport. It teaches you concentration, like nothing else. You need to know what you’re doing. You need to know where you’re going with the ball. There are a million things happening all at once.
“It’s great for the kids,” concluded White. “Anything we can do to encourage more participation is a great thing.”
Lebanon County Girls’ Fast-Pitch
Final League Standings
|Nothern Lebanon 18U||8||1||1||.889||—||124||32||92|
|Annville Mark Hershey||7||2||1||.778||1.0||100||57||43|
|Manheim Central Barons||4||6||0||.400||4.5||76||99||-23|
|Richland Legion 18U||2||8||0||.200||6.5||69||111||-42|
|Richland Legion A||10||0||0||1.000||—||177||63||114|
|South Lebanon Gable||9||1||0||.900||1.0||154||29||125|
|Annville TD Mills||6||4||0||.600||4.0||118||82||36|
|Northern Lebanon Sliski Service||6||4||0||.600||4.0||117||85||32|
|South Lebanon Kneasel||4||6||0||.400||6.0||100||121||-21|
|Northern Lebanon MSC||3||7||0||.300||7.0||93||128||-35|
|Richland Legion B||0||10||0||.000||10.0||41||187||-146|
|Annville Blue Scope||9||1||0||.900||—||148||73||75|
|South Lebanon Arnold||8||2||0||.800||1.0||156||68||88|
|Northern Lebanon Parks/Fisher||4||6||0||.400||5.0||92||131||-39|
|Heidelberg Twp Bulldogs 12u||3||7||0||.300||6.0||121||177||-56|
|South Lebanon Keller||0||10||0||.000||9.0||86||183||-97|
|Northern Lebanon Blue||10||0||0||1.000||—||74||18||56|
|Northern Lebanon Gold||5||4||1||.556||4.5||69||34||35|
|Heidelberg Twp Bulldogs||4||5||1||.444||5.5||51||55||-4|