Fast pitch team’s memorable summer

Williams Lake fast pitch coach Jen French says The Prospects headed to provincials in Prince George in July not knowing it would turn into a three-week evacuation.

The Prospects U12 team made its way to the provincial fast pitch tournament in Prince George with a roster of 15 boys and one girl. Photo submitted

My husband, Al, and I coached the house league fast pitch team this summer along with help from Ben and Liselle Pierce. Because we had a record number of boys and girls this year with so much talent, we decided it would be fun to see if there would be interest from the players and parents to arrange a Rep team.

We held a tryout early in the season and we were surprised with the large number of skilled ball players. It was a busy start to the season! Al and I, along with Nick Surette, were now coaching a Rep team twice a week, and a house team twice a week. We also had to fit in as many games as possible against some out of town teams, in order to make our way to Provincials in Prince George July 7-9. Many of these boys and our one girl, Zaidee Campbell, were playing ball more than four times a week yet every week we would have a hard time getting them off the ball field when practices were over!

From the very beginning of the season, we told the players that we had a lot of work to do. The “prospects” were all up for the challenge. Many players who made the Rep team were first-year ball players. The majority of our players had to learn to be confident on the field. I always would tell them at the beginning of a practice, “it’s a process and it gets stronger the more its practiced.” I would tell them to “fake it even if you aren’t quite confident on the field yet. Fake it until it becomes real and you WILL start to believe it.”

Our season up north in the Cariboo is already much shorter than many southern Interior and coastal teams, as they can get out on the fields and practice much sooner as they don’t have to wait for the snow to melt. It didn’t seem to bother our highly competitive team after we played our first Rep practice game against 100 Mile and lost by numerous runs. Being a competitive person myself, I was learning so much from this humble group of kids even though I was supposed to be their leader and role model. The score didn’t matter. They were having fun playing the sport they were growing to love and gaining new friendships.

After many practices, we were finally heading to Prince George. Thank you to Lynn Samson for surprising the kids with new engraved ball bags when we all arrived. The look on the kids’ faces will be something I will cherish forever.

For the first time in 25 years, The Prospects U12 team made its way to play in a provincial fast pitch tournament. The team consisted of 15 boys and only one girl. I was so nervous for the team hoping that we had prepared them well enough for the competition. I didn’t expect to win many games. I just wanted the games to be close to keep the team’s confidence up. Unfortunately, we lost the first game we played by several runs. I knew we had a talented team with so much potential, and that showed in the rest of the tournament. We started to win, and win by a lot. The team’s confidence and camaraderie was starting to shine.

The Prospects played so well, and with so much on their minds. We were told about the evacuation during the middle of one of our games.

This summer will be a summer to remember for Williams Lake. Little did we know when we were heading up to Prince George for a weekend of baseball, it would turn into a three-week evacuation. While the wildfires were happening around Williams Lake, we worried for our hometown and prayed for the safety of our friends and family back home. This group was lucky enough not have to have been around the stress of the evacuation. We were all together and safe making memories playing the sport that they love, and hope to grow more in love with in the years ahead.

Thank you to all the parents for bringing your kids to every practice! Thank you to the Prospects for your sportsmanship and heart and love for the game. I hope you continue to love baseball for many years ahead. It was a treat to be your coach and I will forever remember this season. Like any sport, baseball teaches you so many life lessons. “Take one pitch at a time. Take it one day at a time”.

Thank you to all of our sponsors: Red Tomato Pies, Hytest Timber, Lynn Samson, Cariboo Ski, Return It Bottle Depot, M and S Tires, Western Financial Group and Tannais Baird.

I encourage more girls to join a softball team. I grew up playing fastball with my sister-in-law, Michelle French. It teaches more that just how to play baseball. It teaches one of the most important things a girl can own and that is their self-confidence.

The only way you won’t make it is if you don’t have passion for something and don’t work hard enough. When you have passion, it drives you and gives you direction and energy.