Every Wednesday night from the beginning of June through the end of July, the lights at the Hanley Falls softball field illuminate players from the area church youth league. The first of four games of the evening begin at 6:30 p.m. and last game starts at 9:30 p.m.
This year the church league consists of teams from Our Savior’s Lutheran, Sacred Heart, Hazel Run Lutheran, Hazel Run, Yellow Medicine Lutheran, Hanley Falls, Rock Haven, Granite Falls, St. John’s Lutheran, Wood Lake and Christ Lutheran in Cottonwood.
The youth that make up a team for each church do not necessarily need to be members of that particular congregation. Church teams can recruit local kids to help make up a full team and some kids choose to play for another church team to be on the same team with their friends.
The church league games are a great way for the area youth to get together for a game of ball and to see their friends, but most important is having fun and leaving the seriousness and stress of the ‘need to win’ mind-set of high school sports behind.
There are no tryouts, kids don’t have to be a great ball player to play and both boys and girls get to play on the co-ed teams. Some kids come out to play because they love the sport, some kids play baseball or softball in high school, while others come with little playing experience and want to have fun with friends. The kids that make up the teams come out to play a good game, strive to win and do their best to score points, and yet when their team loses a game, the loss seems to roll off their shoulders and they don’t dwell on their mistakes.
Some players and parents don’t keep track of how many losses or wins they’ve had during the season. When a few players and a parent were asked what their team’s record was for the season, no one seemed to know, they only commented on when their next game would be.
There are rules and regulations of the game that include what type of ball is to be used, ages of the players, who supplies the game ball, appropriate clothing attire, number of innings played and the number of girls each team is to have playing.
Gary Enger and Rich Hagen of Hanley Falls are the umpires at each game. They also organize the games, make sure the coaches receive the rules and schedule of games. They are also there to help the kids have a good game by offering words of encouragement as well as reminding some about the use of their choice language or their attitude or temper if they strike out or make a mistake.
Page 2 of 2 - The church league softball games can be relaxing and fun for everyone, from the kids who come to play with friends, parents and friends who come watch the game and young kids who come along to play on the playground equipment. The concession stand is always open to purchase some popcorn, a cold drink or other treats.
As with anything in life, there are always things that don’t go well in a game. Sometimes tempers need to be calmed, players need to be reminded not to throw a bat after they strike out and sometimes kids will drop out of the league because they don’t get to play. All are learning experiences in life and will likely help teach patience, strength and perseverance.
Last Wednesday, July 17, the tournament playoffs began and the champion team was determined at the final game July 24 (See 1B).