By Jean DePlacido
---- — The timing was perfect. For quite a while the Hamilton-Wenham Little League had been talking about getting a youth softball program started, but it was a big project and they needed somebody to get it off the ground. When Bill Cooke moved into town and began inquiring about a softball program for his two daughters they found the right person to serve as director.
Cooke had coached softball for the past six years and was willing to take on the task. The family had been surprised to learn there was no program in their new town of Wenham. The Little League Board of Directors voted to establish a girls’ softball program beginning this spring and hopes to have three divisions.
The Farm League will be for 3rd and 4th graders, Junior for 5th and 6th, and Senior for 7th, 8th, and 9th. They will play in the Essex County League.
“For the past few years the number of girls playing baseball has been increasing for girls, and while we don’t discourage that we wanted to reach out to the girls who prefer softball,” said H-W Little League president Len Dolan. “We had been talking about starting a program for years, but honestly the Little League takes so much of our time it was difficult to get it going. When Bill moved to town and asked about our softball program we found the right guy to focus his attention to the job.
“We’re taking it slow because we want to do it the right way. We looked back at the history of Hamilton-Wenham softball, and met with the new athletic director Craig Genualdo, who was very receptive to the idea. He looks at not having softball at the high school as a void. It was tough for the program with no feeder system so now our program will develop players.”
An online survey of the community confirmed the idea of a youth softball program would be very well received. On February 11 the Little League held a community meeting and plans to have another early next month. Registration is open now and girls are starting to sign up.
“I’m pretty fired up about the new program,” said Cooke. “Our whole focus will be on fundamentals, having fun, and learning along the way. Right now we want to get the word out to parents and kids. We’re asking a bunch of girls to come play softball, and we intend to bring the sport to the kids in the right way by crossing all our t’s and dotting our i’s.
“If you have never played before, come give it a try. All levels of skill are welcome. I plan to coach one team, and we need more coaches as well as adult volunteers. You don’t have to be an expert; we’ll help you out.”
Dolan said they hope to get 48 girls to sign up which will be more than enough for the first year. The emphasis is on getting the program off the ground and starting player development, camaraderie, and competition at an appropriate level.
“We want the girls to enjoy the experience and be excited to come back the next year,” said Dolan. “The whole thing is like going through a maze. We made it through, and it has been smooth sailing so far. The main thing is letting people in the community know we’re offering softball and lining up our coaches and volunteers.”