Morning Star Staff
Smiles line their faces as they run around the bases and throw a ball.
It’s all part of the Learn to Play Vernon Strikers, a Under 10 program for kids who show an interest in baseball and who want to learn the fundamentals, but who have never touched a ball before.
“Striking people out,” is Simon Pyefinch’s favourite part of the game.
The nine-year-old also likes playing shortstop.
Parents are a big part of Learn to Play as they help out with coaching.
Parent Pattie Mallett pitches for the team and parent Lee Bowring keeps score.
The pair play ball together and decided they wanted their kids to learn too.
“We get to be involved as parents which is pretty cool,” said Bowring. “We always have our gloves.”
“I just like seeing the kids learn and how they’re growing,” said Mallett.
They also have opportunities to pass down tips and pointers to the kids.
“(We help teach) how to hold the bat, position their bodies, and how to handle grounders,” said Bowring.
Parents were set up on every base for Tuesday’s real game versus Kelowna, offering encouraging words.
“The parents usually all help coach the bases,” said Bowring.
“(When my child) gets up to bat, her face changes and she’s like ‘I’m ready,’” added Mallett. “They’re pumped.”
Having the parents help coach allows parent-child interaction and gives the coach a break.
“I think it’s a wonderful bonding experience, seeing your parents in a different light,” said head coach Vicki Topping.
It’s a lot of work to stay organized so she is glad that parents are able to lend a hand,” she said.
Topping got involved because she used to be a fastball player and her kids are now players. She stepped up to the bat when she learned that Learn to Play didn’t have a coach and the older leagues folded.
“All of these kids came here not knowing how to throw a ball, or catch a ball, and now they’re playing a game,” she said.
The kids improve from April through June.
Some of the players were scared of the ball in the beginning, but now they are excited to try new positions.
“They’re all wanting and noticing active positions on the field,” she said.
The program has practices and scrimmages where kids learn the basics before participating in actual games against other Okanagan cities.
“They’re going around the bases like it’s nothing,” said Topping.
Hitting, catching, and teaching how the ball reacts are some of the concepts of the program. Learn to Play is nationally recognized.