Saturday was an exciting day for spring and summer sports leagues.
Doc Norcross Stadium was filled with coaches, players, organizers and parents on the warm spring day, celebrating the Opening Day of Shippensburg Area Little League.
A major highlight of the event was the return of the girls' softball league, which ended in Shippensburg around 2012.
This year, 26 girls will play in the minor and major league divisions in a round-robin style with other teams in the district.
“We just want to thank Tiffany Roth (the board's secretary),” Shaun Rogers, major league coach and manager, said Saturday. “She fought, and fought, and fought to bring girls' softball back. I think it's an absolute wonderful thing for the girls in Shippensburg to be involved in softball again.”
Major league coach Heidi Lebitz played softball in the 1990s for Chambersburg, and had the thrill of playing in the Little League World Series in 1990.
“I’m just impressed with the history of it all,” Lebitz added. “There’s a lot of awesome tradition involved in Little League. If we can bring an ounce of the joy I had when I played in the Little League World Series, that’s worth it.”
Major league coach Mike Croutz said he is excited that the softball league is finally back, and Opening Day has arrived.
“We would just like to thank Tiffany Roth for all of her work to bring this back,” Lebitz said. “It's a great moment for sports in Shippensburg.”
Anna Connor, 11, said she is excited to play because it will give her the chance to meet new people, and is excited to start the return of the softball league in Shippensburg.
Eleven-year-old Shelby Heberlig said playing softball is “a good way to connect with fellow people who love softball as much as I do.”
“I’m happy to be part of the team that brought Little League Softball back to Shippensburg!” Jazzmin Croutz, 11, exclaimed.
Haillie Eutzy, 11, added softball is a fun way to meet new friends and have fun.
“We have had a lot of support from the district level to rebuild the girls' league,” Roth said after the opening ceremonies Saturday. “The Shippensburg High School Coach Mike Peters and Shippensburg University Coach Alison Van Scyoc have also been very supportive. They went out to the schools to talk to the girls, and did a clinic to get the girls interested.”
The girls will play as part of PA District 14, which encompasses a number of teams from areas such as Newville, Dillsburg, York, Gettysburg, Hanover, South Middleton, Carlisle and Littlestown.
“I played in the girls' division from the ages of 8-9 to 15, in the 1990s,” Roth said. “I played and coached for two years. I grew up on this field, and to give the girls the chance to do this really means a lot to me. The girls were playing travel ball, but I feel Little League is more community oriented.”
Roth continued, “I think the neat thing is we have a lot of girls who haven’t played before, so we will be able to mold those players. We also have a 40 percent growth in our T-ball program, and there are a lot of girls playing there, which will help transition those girls to the softball league and help it grow.”
Roth said the softball program ended in Shippensburg around 2012, partly due to a declining interest and availability of coaches.
She said the entire league is excited to get started with this season. The Shippensburg Little League is comprised of T-ball teams, minor and major league boys' teams, junior league boys' teams, and minor and major league girls' softball teams. Numerous coaches volunteer their time to coach the players, and the volunteer board oversees league operations. The league staff consists of: President Chris Lehman; Vice PresidentJeremy Diehl; Treasurer Rebecca Kessler; Secretary Tiffany Moriarty Roth; Safety Officer Freddie Rumbaugh; Trustees Josh Fritz, Brad Weller, Matt Chamberlin and Bruce Lebitz; Equipment Manager Trent Finkle; Concessions Manager Janelle Carbaugh; T-Ball Coordinator/Player Agent Terry Diehl; Player Agent Frank Fogelsanger; Building Maintenance Mike Thimgan; Fundraising Laura Williams; and Umpire in Chief Randy Rowles.
“I think Opening Day was really good this year,” Roth added. “T-ball wasn't a part of opening ceremonies last year because we started it late. I think it's monumental. The league grew by 15 percent this year. We were able to share fields across the community; everyone is pulling together to make sure the kids have a great ball year! We're just excited for the kids to start!”
For more information on Opening Day, see Page 9.
For more information on the league, visit: www.shippensburglittleleague.com.