Penticton player a hit with Mesa coach
Before enjoying the Christmas holidays, Madison Wilms was determined to solidify her softball future.
The former Kelowna Heat player travelled to Mesa, Arizona with coach Jeff Korven.
Wilns plays first base/pitcher and earned a tryout thanks to Korven, who is one of the pitching coaches for the Mesa Community College Thunderbirds.
Korven knows what Wilms can bring, having watched her for a few years. Korven said the Thunderbirds look for girls who are No.1 athletes. Tryout opportunities are based on whether he sees talent in people they can mold into a player. He said it’s important the player has a good attitude and decent size.
“We can teach them how to hit, we can teach them how to throw, if they are athletic enough,” he said. “We are always looking for height, five-foot-eight to five-foot-10. Maddy just fits the bill on everything.”
While Wilms has a a slight inside track to a roster spot, Canadian athletes are still underdogs. Should Wilms earn a spot for 2013-14, she will have to work her way into a starting role.
“These guys play 12 months of the year,” said Korven.
Wilms has always enjoyed the game and it has given her something to be part of. Having it help her further her education is a bonus.
“I played T-ball and my parents never pushed me into wanting to play ball,” said Wilms, who plans to play in Ridge Meadows this spring. “I have just wanted to.”
Being on the field, Wilms said any success experienced isn’t just for her but the team.
“When everything is working and making outs and playing hard together, that is probably my favourite part,” she said.
Wilms loves to provide offence and describes herself as a line-drive hitter. She had nerves going into the Dec. 20 tryout, however, Wilms felt she should be nervous.
“I’m more excited about it and hope to be there next year,” she said.
Wilms has thought about her potential future in Mesa and said she’d miss her family.
“I think its going to be tough in the beginning,” said Wilms, who has a few ideas on what to study. “I think its going to be good for me. I won’t be able to just phone my mom to come over if I need help with some things.”
The experience of being on three recruiting trips has allowed Wilms to know what to expect in Division II of Arizona Community College Athletic Conference, which is in the National Junior College Athletic Association. Feeling some intimidation, Wilms joked that she will just “have to fake it until I make it.”
The hope in Wilms making Mesa is that it will be a motivator for more kids to play at college level.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” said Korven, whose daughter Danielle Korven plays at the University of Wisconsin.
“I hope it inspires kids to go,” said Wilms.
Wayne Hill, coach of the Thunderbirds, said Wilms’ tryout was interesting in that he realized that she did not have much practice time.
“I was looking for more things than her velocity,” said Hill. “I was looking for good ball movement, which she had. I was looking at technique and her technique is something that we can build on. She does have good athletic ability. She does have the pitching technique that we can develop.”
Hill said he was impressed with Wilms’ hitting as she swung the bat very well.
“A little rusty, but the power that she has … (we can) fine tune what they are doing right to make them better,” he said.
Prior to Wilms’ return home, Hill told her she possesses the qualities he looks for in players that become Thunderbirds. He also advised her to take time in making the right decision for her future. Shortly after Christmas, Wilms contacted Hill informing him she wanted to play for him.
“I think that she is a great asset to our program,” said Hill. “I see a lot of good qualities in her.”
Wilms will be among seven Canadians playing for Hill.