Eight youngsters showed up at Liberty High School two Sundays ago ina chilly kickoff for the latest local recreation program --fast-pitch softball for teen-age girls.
The program, said organizer George Myers, is intended to acquaint youngsters with fast-pitch so they areready to face it in high school varsity competition.
And for those already playing there, it offers an additional chance to whack away at the fast ones in the summer.
Myers plans to run practices until roughly mid-April, when he hopes to form teams in under-14, 16 and 18 categories. The squads would compete in informal games against opponents in Howard County and elsewhere.
He also wants to enter these squads in the Amateur Softball Association's girls state fast-pitch championship tournament June 22-23 at the Carroll County Sports Complex in Westminster.
"There's a need for it," said Freedom area resident Myers, who teaches physical education at Mount Hebron High in Howard County.
Liberty High varsity girls softball coach Dale Green agreed.
"I'm for it all the way," Green said. "Itwill help them a lot by giving them a head start on skills."
His North Carroll High counterpart, Phil Bonnell, said likewise.
"I'm interested because it gives the girls experience. It's good for Carroll County and will benefit our high school programs," said Bonnell.
Myers, though, said he also has a more personal reason for startingit.
His daughters Kari, 16, and Keli, 15, play, and he wants to help them along.
"My daughter (Kari) couldn't hit last year (on theLiberty varsity), and that's because she didn't face fast-pitch," Myers explained. "We had to get fast-pitch started to help the local kids."
Ironically, while he sees the need to introduce girls to fast-pitch, he also thinks schools shouldn't be playing it.
"It's beyond travesty why they play fast-pitch," Myers said. "It's a two-persongame (pitcher and catcher). If you really want more people involved,play slow-pitch. It's more of a team concept. Fast-pitch can be dominated by a good pitcher."
While he thinks they're playing the wrong softball game, Myers nevertheless worked hard to get his program off the ground.
He contacted local varsity softball coaches plus others involved in the game, in addition to mailing fliers to schools.
Both Green and Bonnell said they spread the word about the program at Liberty and plan to push the idea more in the next few weeks.
Both said they will target their schools' junior varsities because these youngsters have had the least exposure to fast-pitch.
Myers, though, said he didn't know how well the clinic would be received when things began two weekends ago, because it was brand-new.
"I had noidea whether the turnout would be two or 30," Myers said.
And while eight is decidedly toward the lower end of that scale, Myers was satisfied with the first Sunday's turnout.
He said he was particularly pleased with the fact that they came from the Westminster and the North Carroll areas as well as Freedom, indicating interest may be fairly widespread.
He said he will work on all fundamentals, not merely developing pitching and hitting skills, although the latter will obviously be a major emphasis.
Myers' program is not affiliated with a rec council and must raise its own money.
He estimated he needs $2,000 this year to cover equipment purchases and tournament entry fees.
He said the owners of Salernos, an Eldersburg restaurant,are helping by letting the girls sell pizzas there one night per week and keep a percentage of the receipts.
"We're desperately short of money," Myers said.
But while he is committed to making fast-pitch work, his doubts about its future as a rec sport rival his concerns about funding.
Because of the intimidation factor, not many parents will let their preteen children play fast-pitch, he said.
These factors do not, in his opinion, bode well for formation of fast-pitch rec leagues.