Hope mom helps organize local softball program

Lessons get kids on the field and learning basic game skills

Tammy Shields with her kids Quinlan and Taylor at Coquihalla School’s field

Tammy Shields with her kids Quinlan and Taylor at Coquihalla School’s field

Hope sent softball teams to the provincial ‘C’  championships in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007 — coming home as the peewee and bantam champs in 2002 and the peewee champs in 2007 — but Hope Minor Ball couldn’t even get past first base in the following years.

Earlier this spring, Hope Minor Soccer’s president, Bruce Becker, said he felt there’s enough interest for Hope to have a softball league. “It just needs somebody to be a leader.”

Enter Tammy Shields.

She grew up in Hope, as Tammy Trick — and her dad, Al, was her first softball coach, in about 1980.

Shields moved back to Hope a few years ago, with her husband Seamus and their two young kids… and the lack of a local minor ball league got her motivated to step up to the plate.

“Hope used to be a ball town,” she said. “We were known for it. Minor ball was a big part of life for many of us who grew up here in years gone by — and it involved the whole family.”

Shields made some inquiries at Softball BC and heard about their Learn to Play program that introduces players to the game.

If the registration response is sufficient, Shields said, “For 2013, there will be no regular season. Instead, we will run a six-week Learn to Play program, which is designed to get kids on the field and learning basic skills, with some scrimmages at the end of each practice.

“The aim is to get started this year and get a sense of the interest from kids and parents, to grow into a full league for 2014. We will be a registered society, affiliated with Softball BC.”

The Learn to Play program — similar to the Learn to Run and Steve Nash youth basketball programs used in Hope — provides volunteer leaders with lesson plans and coaching tips.

Last weekend, eight coaches took a workshop in Hope, led by a Softball BC representative from Langley.

“There were a few others that weren’t able to attend but will be helping coach,” said Shields. “Kelly and Cindy Araki, Buffy and Chris Miller and Laurel Loring. They all played ball in Hope when they were kids.”

Starting from scratch would be a daunting and expensive challenge — but Shields said executive members Kathy Hirst and Cindy Bader had acquired $12,000 in lottery grants, which had been put into equipment purchases shortly before the local league shut down.

“The equipment is all in storage at the arena,” said Shields. “There are brand new helmets and bases still in the bags, a whole rack of bats and lots of balls. There are also team jerseys that would have to be inventoried.”

For this season’s Learn to Play program, Shields says all a player will need is a glove and a pair of running shoes — and if a glove is hard to come by, she said she is sure that one could be sourced out.

The plan is to run the weekly sessions on Wednesday evenings at the Sixth Avenue ball park, from 6-7:30 p.m., starting on June 19 through to July 24, with a wrap-up party on July 31.

The cost is $35 per child, plus a lifetime membership with Softball BC for $10. The program is intended for ages 4 to 13.

Registration is from 10 a.m. till noon on June 8 at Hope Secondary, or on June 12 from 3:30-7:30 p.m. at the Hope Rec Centre.

“The community has been very supportive of this initiative,” added Shields. “I think most people are going to be very happy to see little people at the ballpark again.

“The success of the program and ability to build, going forward, is going to depend heavily on two factors: the number of kids who want to play, and the amount of volunteer help and support available from parents and the community.”

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