The registration deadline for Merritt Minor Softball’s new season is approaching faster than a pitcher could throw, and the association is inviting all young softball players to quickly sign up for the opportunity to join one of the fastest growing sport in Merritt.
Softball in Merritt is an ever growing sport. With a record number of registered players last season, the support of high level softball figures, and a championship calibre team, the Merritt Minor Softball Association looks to ride the momentum and produce an even better season in 2023.
“We had one of our best years for registration last year,” said Merritt Minor Softball President Amy Douthwright.
“It’s great to have multiple teams in each age division to where we can schedule games and have a league going. We’d just like to build off of that.”
There were 140 registrants last year that made up 18 teams across six age divisions within the association, ranging from toddlers to U17 groups.
Last year also marked the return of softball season for Merritt Minor as they were coming from two years of suspended seasons.
“I think everybody was just trying to look for something to do, coming out of all the COVID-19 restrictions,” said Douthwright. “Minor ball in town is definitely getting more attention with the Provincials being hosted here, and the level of training and competition rising.”
Last July, Merritt Minor hosted Softball BC’s Boys Provincial Championships at Central Park. 10 U13, five U15, and four U17 teams from across the province competed in their respective age divisions.
“We haven’t had that level of fastball in Merritt for a very long time and it was so nice to see so much talent on the fields right here at home,” said last season’s U17 Coach Candice Bateson.
“The sportsmanship and kindness, on and off the field, shown by players and fans are really why softball is the best sport to play. It was great to see teams cheer each other on and wish each other well all weekend.”
Another contributor to the growth in softball culture in Merritt is the support of high level figures in the sport such as Women’s Canadian Fastpitch Championship 2022 Top Pitcher Alana Pooley, and Team Canada Men’s Head Coach John Stuart.
“John came out to the provincials to talk to our boys which was great,” said Douthwright. “Alana is essential. She’s helping out with players pitching and coach training, which definitely helps our club.”
In terms of players themselves, the Merritt boasts a championship team, with this year’s U13 boys team being made up of last year’s U11 championship crew.
“In the past, I would say our U15 and U17 teams were the most competitive, but this upcoming season we’ve got some very competitive players in the U13 division,” Douthwright explained.
“They’re hoping to put together what we call a travel team, which will have them travel more for tournaments while still engaging in league play.”
Last year’s U11 team brought home gold from the ‘Celebration of Softball’ tournament in Kamloops. They defeated eight teams at the Charles Anderson Park enroute to Gold.
“It was great,” said Blaine Martens, coach for last year’s U11 team. “Everyone worked so hard all weekend long and I was very happy that they performed so well.”
Merritt Minor Softball offers a majority of Co-Ed teams. Douthwright hopes to form some girls teams this season.
“Last year there wasn’t quite the registration for that,” she said. “We’re hoping to bring that this season to have girls teams in the U13 and U15 divisions.”
Players who register will undergo two weeks of evaluations to be placed in the appropriate team. Teams then have the opportunity to join different out of town tournaments as well as play in the Southern Interior League, where they will compete against other teams from places like Kamloops and Ashcroft.
“I’d love to see the increase in registration,” said Douthwright. “The more kids that join the more competitive we can get. It gives us the ability to put more resources into coaches, training, and player development.”
The deadline for registration is February 28. There will be a late fee of $45 for any players signing up after the deadline. For more information on how to register, please visit www.merrittminorsoftball.org.