Hustle and Heart Set Them ApartFeb 09, 2023 12:00AM ● By Story and photos by Debra Dingman
Coach Bill Conn assists Aerial Turner on her swing at last week's coaching session.
DIXON, CA (MPG) - About 100 girls aged 4 to 14 were spread out between nine softball teams that are busy learning skills for Dixon Girls Baseball League at Hall Park. Not all girls might claim Girls Softball as ‘their sport’ but all girls will learn teamwork, establish camaraderie, and almost all will gain a sense of confidence in themselves.
“If you have confidence, you can do anything you want to do,” said Bill Conn, a 63-year-old grandfather who has a granddaughter in the League. He grew up in Brooklyn and played ball on the same team for eight years before joining the Navy and playing on the fly deck of the ship. He also played after that. “I loved it and we had a great team.”
When he learned his granddaughter’s team needed help, it was easy for him to sign up.
Listening to him coaching Ariel Turner, 12, she’s going to gain that confidence. When she missed a few pitches and seemed to be defeated, he demonstrated how to stand and bend the knees a little to help keep the power in her swing and eye on the ball.
“Girls like that need confidence and we will work on that. When you get that up, you see a difference right away,” he said. Turner is the first born in a family of four children and said her Dad wants all the children to be in sports but she admitted she would prefer to be in cheerleading. She was gently reminded that this was just the beginning practice and that learning skill takes time and practice.
Miree Turner, Ariel’s younger sister, has been playing for a couple years.
“His coaching helps me because he tells me what I messed up on. My grandpa used to play baseball and started telling me about it so that’s how I got interested,” Miree said. “I really enjoy it.” Olivia Granada, 12, was also out practicing and is in her sixth year.
“My first year, I was scared because I didn’t know how to navigate the ball,” she said. “You gotta get comfortable. Now, softball is my life. I play first base and there’s a lot of action but I’m good at it.” Her goal is to play on the Lady Rams team at Dixon High School and ultimately win a San Diego University scholarship.
“You can’t get upset when someone’s new,” she said. “You just adapt.”
Umpires are needed for the upcoming spring season and training will be provided. Umpires get paid per game. If you would like a little extra cash in your pocket, contact Teri Thompson by emailing her at [email protected]. Training will be on February 25 from 10 a.m. to noon at Hall Park Ball Field.
“When I was out here watching a game and a girl got a hit, I got excited. Now, I get to get excited for 13 girls,” Conn said with a laugh.
Dixon mother of thee Melissa Alexander said her girls were “super excited” to start the spring practices.
“They’re happy to be working as a team again. It’s a fun group and we stay pretty local, playing in Davis, Winters, and Woodland,” she said.
Alexander serves as the sponsorship coordinator on the Board of about 15 people. The first couple years after the pandemic, the team numbers dwindled but seem to be on a path to double this season. Their goal is to grow the league so they can play more competitive baseball with other cities.
“The board wants to increase the numbers of people interested in the sport,” said Jennifer Reid, former President and current Vice President. “But we also strive to bring a fun environment.” Her daughter, Caitlin, has played since she was 5-years-old and now she is 11. That is what got her to step up and serve on the Board. Jennifer is also a coach for the team sponsored by SM Air.
“So many moms have been volunteering for years,” she said. “It’s fun and I like organizing the League, making sure we provide a [rewarding] experience. There are three areas to develop,” she said. “The number one thing is for the girls to learn the game and secondly to develop in the game of softball. The third is to develop skills. The organization is run by an all-women Executive Board: President Micah Martinez, Treasurer Heather Smith, and Secretary Velia Martinez.
The girls are already practicing almost every night of the week and the games that start soon are two to three evenings a week beginning March 11 and running through mid-May.
“So many life skills are learned through sports,” Reid added. “It’s everything else with teamwork and camaraderie.”
For the season kick off, they will host a community event to “get all the players involved and see what we do for our girls” plus they are hoping to find some new team sponsors, said Reid.
DGSA is operated entirely by volunteers. They are always looking for interested and energetic volunteers that will promote and model DGSA values, help keep DGSA running smoothly, and enable players and teams to focus on having fun, organizers said.