Select fastpitch comes to town

As parents of Oak Harbor fastpitch softball players, Ann Knaus and Shari Meagher felt there was something lacking in the community—so they took action.

Knaus and Meagher established a non-profit organization, the Whidbey Island Girls Fastpitch Association, in hopes of providing opportunity to local girls, previously unavailable.

“As far as girls fastpitch softball in Oak Harbor, there’s not a whole lot going on out there, except for high school and little league,” Knaus said.

Unlike many off-island communities, North Whidbey has never had a select softball program for girls to participate in during the summer months. Instead local athletes were required to make their way to Skagit or Snohomish counties if they wanted to keep playing.

Knaus and Meagher took the first step toward changing that this summer.

The duo comprised a local team of 13-15 year-old girls who participated in a Skagit Valley Park and Recreation Department league in Sedro-Woolley. Though the group was not officially a select team, it was the first step toward forming one.

“I think we started the skeleton,” Knaus said. “Now it’s up to the players and parents to come forward.”

According to Knaus, the ultimate goal is to form girls under-14 and girls under-16 Amateur Softball Association teams, which would begin practicing this month and start tournament play in the spring of 2005.

“We started the Whidbey Island Girls Fastpitch Association with the intention of having some select teams come out of it,” Knaus said.

The ASA is a national organization that has several teams throughout the state and would provide a high level of competition similar to that seen in select soccer and baseball.

Along with the addition of a select program, comes the hope of increased success at the high school level.

“It’s to complement them and to help them better their team,” Meagher said.

Last year’s Oak Harbor High School fastpitch team went 0-16 in league and 1-19 overall. Most of the Wildcats’ opponents were members of select leagues, something that makes a huge difference according to Knaus.

“The opportunity to work on fundamental skills and strategies for 11 months, versus two months is a huge variation,” she said.

Knaus, however, wants to make it clear she does not want the select program to interfere with the high school program.

“We want to complement the high school program,” she said. “We don’t want to detract from it...high school sports will come first.”

In just the two months of existence, the program has already received a solid amount of support from the community, including the likes of Whidbey Island Ford, Alaska USA, Island Thrift and Bayview Embroidery N’ Print, who have donated money and services.

“If we can grow as an organization maybe we could even get U-10 and U-12 in the future,” Knaus said.

Tryouts for any girls interested in playing on the under-14 or under-16 Oak Harbor ASA select team will be held at 5 p.m., Aug. 24-26 at Hillcrest Elementary. Players are invited from all over Island County as well as Skagit County. Practices will continue until April when the season begins.

WIGSA is also looking for coaches interested in helping with fastpitch. If you have questions or would like to volunteer call Ann Knaus at 679-0352.

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