But­lerville soft­ball boom­ing

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

In be­tween rows of houses, the But­lerville soft­ball field is more than just dirt and grass.

Set away from the road and on the bank of a pond, the field serves as the key recre­ational con­duit for the com­mu­nity.

A sim­ple and mod­est field, it’s the spark plug for a soft­ball pro­gram that is ex­plod­ing at the mo­ment. One sin­gle set of bleach­ers sits along the left field foul line, al­low­ing for a per­fect view of any game that’s go­ing on.

A pair of green benches serves as dugouts for play­ers and coaches and over­looks the worn dirt in­field and neatly trimmed grass.

The But­lerville field is one of the busiest in the re­gion and it’s not strange to not find a game of ball be­ing played there any night of the week.

In the past num­ber of years, the field just keeps get­ting busier.

The But­lerville Mi­nor Soft­ball As­so­ci­a­tion is see­ing a record num­ber of kids hit­ting the field ev­ery sum­mer.

This year, they’ve reg­is­tered over 100 play­ers with one reg­is­tra­tion pe­riod left to go. That’s up from a to­tal of 80 chil­dren in 2015.

“It’s wild. Ev­ery year, it’s get­ting big­ger and big­ger,” said as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Dar­rell Mercer. “It seems kids are start­ing to get back into the ball. “It’s great.” For awhile, it seemed like young ath­letes were mov­ing away from soft­ball and find­ing other sports to ex­plore in the sum­mer time.

That’s changed now. The snow barely left the field in March be­fore play­ers were grab­bing their mitts and hit­ting the field to play a game in some form or an­other.

“The kids are get­ting back into it and there’s in­ter­est in the ball and away you go,” said Mercer.

The pres­i­dent com­mended the Town of Bay Roberts for bring­ing the field up to snuff, of which the pro­gram is reap­ing the re­wards.

Teach­ing the game

My kids are talk­ing about it and other kids are talk­ing about how much fun they have play­ing ball, how they gets to go on tour­na­ments … in the sum­mer time. They love it. Dar­rell Mercer

If play­ers don’t learn the game, they can’t grow in the game. It’s a sim­ple state­ment, but one that coaches with the But­lerville as­so­ci­a­tion take to heart.

To them, coach­ing soft­ball is more than just show­ing up and hit­ting a few fly balls to the play­ers.

“You see a kid do­ing some­thing wrong, you’ll take them by the hand one-on-one and show them how to play,” said Mercer.

It’s an ap­proach that has res­onated with par­ents and made the pro­gram more ac­ces­si­ble be­cause of it.

They want to see their kids learn­ing the game and get­ting the most out of their prac­tice time, noted Mercer.

Word of mouth

Kids talk­ing to kids is one the big­gest rea­sons re­cre­ation pro­grams start get­ting ad­di­tional num­bers.

Those who start in a pro­gram be­gin chat­ting with their friends about what they’re learn­ing and do­ing. That friend, in turn, starts telling an­other friend.

Sud­denly, you’ve got eight or 10 new play­ers ready to give soft­ball a go.

“My kids are talk­ing about it and other kids are talk­ing about how much fun they have play­ing ball, how they gets to go on tour­na­ments … in the sum­mer time,” said Mercer. “They love it.”

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

Wood­land Ele­men­tary in New Har­bour got a spe­cial gift from the Local Ser­vice District late last week. The school re­ceived a pair of buddy benches crafted by Rod and Chris Hig­don. One is in­tended for the out­side, while the other will be sta­tioned inside. In­tended to en­cour­age in­ter­ac­tion be­tween students, any­one sit­ting on the bench can look for oth­ers to sit and talk with. Shown in the pic­ture are: front (l-r) —Bri­anna Thorne and Lu­cas Hol­lett; back — Chris Hig­don, Rod Hig­don, Bruce Wil­liams, An­nette Hig­don, Wanda Lee Bowan and school prin­ci­pal Lor­raine Har­num;

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

The soft­ball field in But­lerville is at the heart of a soft­ball boom in the com­mu­nity.

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