It’s softball season, wait, it’s summer
For players off the hill in the Northern Nevada League, this must be what the beginning of softball season is like.
Buds begin to emerge on willow bushes, dandelions appear and the whirl of a John Deer churns up dustdevils on the infield.
In Tahoe, that season is marked by the sound of a snowblower and plastic drawn across frozen glass.
The reality is the first few high school spring season games on the hill are the team’s first few practices on the field.
It’s when the softball season ends that the spring emerges during heavy snow years like this one, which is why managers like Rich Barna, who heads South Tahoe High’s varsity team, and John Keast, the junior varsity manager, jump into the Amateur Softball Association and club season with the same zeal as the regular season.
Can you smell the pollen? That’s right, it’s club softball season in Tahoe.
ASA started on Monday. The teams will play for about five weeks, from the first part of May until the season ends in mid-June.
In addition to ASA and Barna’s Tahoe Smoke club team, Keast, a member of the local ASA softball board, is starting a new program this year. It’s called Tahoe Fire, a club team for girls 14 and under.
The difference between the Smoke and the Fire is negligible minus the age. Barna’s team is typically 16 and under, though he may step up the age limit to 18 to work with his prodigy players.
Keast’s team will primarily target eighth-graders coming from the ASA.
“I’ll be recruiting primarily out of the ASA majors, which is as high as they can go,” he said.
Keast said the team is his solution to increase ASA’s season and make the club team “kind of an all-star team.”
“When they reach 14 they either stop playing or commit to high school softball,” Keast said.
“I’m looking for 14 players, that’s the maximum I’ll take. I’m targeting eighth, but I’ll take seventh-graders, even sixth-graders if they’re good enough, and I’ll let them develop with this program.”
This team’s mission: grab the ones that got away in previous years.
South Tahoe’s junior varsity team saw 11 players at the beginning of the season. At the season end, nine remained.
“We only had one win this year and that was against Whittell,” Keast said. “We had a mix of half varsity and J.V., and they had the same thing.”
Keast said South Tahoe, the larger 4A school, has to do something to raise the caliber of the players if it wants to stay competitive with schools such as Wooster, Douglas and Reno, some of which are nationally ranked.
Tahoe Fire is his solution.
The team will play in at least four local tournaments throughout the summer. The cost per player is $70.
In addition, the team needs additional funding to get the program started.
A total of $2,000 is needed to purchase equipment such as bats, balls, catcher’s gear and uniforms. Funds will also pay for insurance and entry fees.
Keast has already raised $800, but needs an additional $1,200 to get started.
After the team has been organized the girls will be expected to conduct fund-raising events to maintain the team in the future and to pay for additional tournaments.
Tryouts for Tahoe Fire will be held on Sunday, May 19 from 2-4 p.m. at the Field of Dreams at South Tahoe High.
For more information, contact Keast at (530) 577-7339, or vial e-mail at email@example.com
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