Sports: From the grounders up
RAF ALCONBURY — Rebuilding is an inevitable part of the competitive cycle when it comes to sports.
Teams have good years. Teams have bad years. And teams have seasons where they’ve got nowhere to go but up, and a foundation is being built anew.
That’s where the Alconbury softball team finds itself this season. With only one returning senior, and an influx of eager if inexperienced underclassmen, the Dragons are building something new — one catch and one swing of the bat at a time.
“It’s all rebuilding,” coach Suzanne Simler said. “It’s all new girls.”
Most of the 13-strong squad had never played softball before, said Yilynne Weber, an Air Force spouse who also coaches the team.
“For the first couple of weeks, we had to teach them to hold a bat and how to throw,” she said last week during a practice.
“They’re really catching on. It’s all about the fundamentals.”
Only five girls on the team played before on a real team, Simler said. But so far, even with a doubleheader loss to London Central last weekend, the girls are 2-3. Not a bad mark for such a green group.
Just getting the team together was a problem, Simler said. The Dragons started out about a month ago with an insufficent number of players, and it took word of mouth among the students to assemble the crew they now have.
Freshman Natasha Matthews was one of the Dragons drafted for this season.
“At first I found it quite hard, but I picked it up quite easily,” Matthews said, adding that she’s been knocked around by a few errant balls. “I’ve been hit a couple times. My first one was right on the elbow.”
In fact, the girls have proven remarkably brave in the face of speeding softballs, said Tech Sgt. Sean Simler, Suzanne Simler’s husband and another Dragons coach.
“None of them are afraid to swing the bat,” he said. “Windmill [pitching] is an interesting motion to catch.”
The new dynamic has opened up leadership opportunities for players such as Marissa Cloum, an Alconbury senior.
“I’ve seen a lot of turnovers,” said Cloum, 17. “It’s a little hard, but it’s good to see how you start and how you finish.”
It was apparent during a practice last week that the players are enjoying themselves, regardless of their record or experience.
As the “baby Dragons” softball team continues to evolve into a force to be reckoned with, they’re having fun along the way, Matthews said.
“We do have a quite young team, but everyone’s got their special talents,” she said.