While Apponaug Girls Softball isn’t immune to declines in youth participation in softball across the country, in part attributed to growing interest in lacrosse and the competition for time with so many activities, Jay Walsh is encouraged by what he’s seeing.
The AGS president was found Saturday, bullhorn in hand, at Winslow Field preparing for opening day ceremonies that would include remarks by Mayor Scott Avedisian and City Council President Joseph Solomon.
Walsh said there are 200 players between the ages of 5 and 18 in the recreational league. Adding in the travel leagues and events hosted by AGS he estimates as many as 2,000 will compete on the Winslow fields over the course of the year.
It’s a big operation, and Walsh depends on a 19-member board to help carry the load to running the concession stand to scheduling games, maintaining the fields and keeping track of funds. Like so many other youth sports leagues in the city, AGS is an all-volunteer run organization. This is their 39th season of play.
“Over the last ten years it’s declined,” Walsh said of girls’ softball. In terms of AGS he said participation has stabilized
He especially encouraged by girls in the 8 and under teams that has grown in the past year.
“We’re primed for the future,” he said. He believes the introduction of fast pitch in 2003 helped AGS as it was one of the few leagues to offer the game. As it grew in popularity, however, AGS lost players to other organizations. He’s optimistic that inclusion of softball in the 2020 Olympics will spur interest in the game. And, he notes, the more ESPN broadcasts games the greater interest there is from people of all ages.
For certain, there was no lack of interest Saturday. Parents and family members took to the bleachers as teams lined up, entered the field and walked down the third base line to give high fives to the mayor, Solomon, and councilmen Tim Howe and Steve McAllister, as well as AGS board members.
Walsh knew where many of those parents watching would be in the hours, days and months to come. They would be coaching, behind the grill in the concession stand and even cleaning the restrooms. Volunteers are the backbone of AGS as much as the players…maybe even more so.