Fathers help their daughters get early an start on softball season

NEIGHBORS

February 28, 2000|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THURSDAY, girls from two fast-pitch softball teams worked out in the small gymnasium at Waterloo Elementary School.

Fathers threw balls with their teen-age daughters, who play for the Elkridge Youth Organization. The men threw and caught the balls with an easy rhythm learned from years of play. Their daughters looked focused, fit and strong.

In the back of the gym, Ellicott City resident Brad Jones, 43, demonstrated to Kristin Gormus, 15, how to step into a pitch. Kristin wound her arm and windmill-pitched the ball to the other side of the gym with tremendous force.

Jones, who played fast-pitch softball in Montgomery County for 18 years, shares his interest in the sport with his daughter, Becky, 14, who was playing catch in another part of the gym. Jones grew up in Montgomery County.

Since last month, the girls and their parents have been practicing four nights a week at the Waterloo gym, preparing for their season.

The girls are among the thousands who will hit the dirt to play softball from March through August.

Softball online

Gone are the days when Little League meant boys playing baseball with borrowed equipment on a sandlot close to home. The basics haven't changed, but competitors, venues and pacing are decidedly modern.

This year, the EYO, a nonprofit group that sponsors sports activities for young people in the Elkridge area, offered registration on its Web site.

One thousand kids signed up for baseball and softball. Nearly half of the kids registered are under age 8.

The youth league will organize a total of 80 softball and baseball teams, with two coaches for each team.

Elkridge resident Dave Steinrucken serves as the EYO's coach and commissioner for fast-pitch girls softball.

He scouts for appropriate tournaments for his teams -- sponsored by major organizations such as the Amateur Softball Association, the National Softball Association and the Pony League -- on the Internet.

A second job

"When you're not having a practice or a game, you're filling in where somebody couldn't make it," he said.

"On the seventh night, you're on the phone scheduling umpires, making up rain dates and scheduling practice times."

Rich Grantham, president of the EYO, agrees. "It's my second full-time job," he said.

Grantham works as a technical support specialist for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in North Laurel. He began helping out in the youth organization 11 years ago, when his eldest daughter, Rachel, began playing sports.

"We've got to provide places where kids can get social values," Grantham said.

"It's too scary to let your kids hang out."

Elkridge residents Craig Gormus and John Prather stood at the doorway to the gym and watched the practice. Gormus' daughters -- Kristin and Lindsey -- "live for the sport," he said.

Prather's daughter, Cara, 14, also plays.

(Far) away games

The men take their daughters to 30 to 60 games a year, they said, depending on the number of tournaments their team plays. Sometimes, they drive for several hours, Prather said.

He remembers driving to a game that was so far out in the country that a home-team player who showed up late explained: "My cow was having a calf."

Prather is an enthusiastic fan of the games.

"My chair gets worn out every year," he said. "It wears me out."

"It's a lot of satisfaction to see them in training in the winter," Gormus said. "As they mature, you can just see them grow up."

Bunjo storytellers

Bunjo Storytellers will come to Mayfield Woods Middle School at 2 p.m. Saturday. Dressed in traditional African clothes, they will share folk tales from Africa.

The free program was organized by three Elkridge librarians -- Candace Davis from Mayfield Woods Middle School, Alfreda Martino from Elkridge Landing Middle and Sharon Unger from the town's branch of the Howard County Public Library.

Davis says the program is appropriate for "anyone who can sit and listen." The school is at 7950 Red Barn Way, Elkridge.

Information: 410-313-5085.

March madness

The Howard High School Band will hold its March Music Madness dance from 7: 30 p.m. to 10: 30 p.m. Friday in the school gymnasium.

The dance has been organized by parents to raise money for band uniforms. Led by Don Mirsch, the parents recruited bands to play.

Seven bands have agreed to play.

Included among the band members are Howard High School students Brian Mirsch, Mandy Koch, Veronica Szabo, Alvin Charity and Michael Van Meter, and Howard High alumni George Demetrides and Adam Hurd.

Tickets, available at the door, are $5.

Information: 410-313-2867.

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