The foundation for fastball athletes in Penticton starts with the Tim Horton’s Learn to Play program.
Every Monday and Wednesday Parkway Field and Lion’s Park have kids in the Penticton Minor Fastpitch Softball Association working on their skills. The most important thing, however, is they have fun while doing it, said coach Tanya Spencer.
Whether the kids, aged 10 and under, are kicking at dirt, playing with dirt, watching a ball quickly roll by them or make a great catch, they are smiling.
“It’s actually been really good,” said Savanna Patterson, 8. “You do different stuff. I’ve had fun learning how to not bat with a tee. It’s really fun to learn and it’s exciting to play games.”
London Funk likes chasing after ground balls, which he admits are hard to stop. Funk, 4, is able to hold his bat high at the plate and catch.
“It’s fun,” said Funk, who loves snagging the high balls.
Kaylee Goodwin, 8, loves to hit and pitch.
“It’s like swinging my brother around in circles,” she said of batting, adding she is pretty good with hitting.
Every time Goodwin hits the field, she works at getting better at grabbing ground balls.
Spencer, who has been coaching Learn to Play for three years, said it’s about getting the kids into the sport. The Learn to Play program is split into three age groups with coatings putting the players through drills ranging from the basic drills (throwing the ball to each other) to the more technical, such as getting in front of ground balls, picking them up and throwing in one motion.
“It’s fun at this age,” said Spencer, who played fastball for the Brewton-Parker College Barons for two years before injuring her shoulder, which required surgery. “The individual skills come together. “It’s very rewarding. At this age group, they listen and want to be there learning stuff.”
Patrick Simpson, another Learn to Play coach, said the kids are good with grasping the skills. Though there are humorous moments as well.
“I have seen some go from second to home lots of times,” he joked. “It’s part of the learning. It’s good though.”