Little League baseball has been a staple in Turlock sports culture for quite come time, but now the organization could soon share the spotlight with its female-dominated counterpart, softball.
Turlock residents and best friends Regina Coletto and Rachelle Currie played Little League softball together in Gilroy as children, and the sport helped shaped them into the women they’ve become. After making it all the way to one game away from the Little League World Series as a kid, Currie went on to play at Stanislaus State, where she was eventually inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, and then on to play professional softball.
When the friends discovered that Currie’s daughter wouldn’t be able to play in the City of Turlock’s recreational softball league until she was in third grade, they decided to attempt to charter Little League Softball here in town. Through Little League, Currie and Coletto hope to establish a chance for girls to play softball competitively without the costly fees that come with travel ball teams.
“Recreational softball doesn’t necessarily try to build a competitive culture that can eventually put girls into high school or college ball later on. Girls have a choice between the City league right now and super expensive, competitive leagues like an ASA team,” Coletto said. “There’s nothing in between, which is where we would see Little League fitting in.”
Little League baseball in Turlock started in 1955 and today, there are two leagues for both boys and girls to participate in — the American League and the National League. There has never been Little League Softball in Turlock, however. In order to charter the new league in town, Coletto and Currie met with both baseball leagues, as well as the league’s district officer, who all expressed interest in supporting and chartering the softball league.
Little League softball was established in 1974 and today, 360,000 athletes participate on more than 24,000 softball teams in over 25 countries. It’s much like Little League Baseball, giving players who reside or attend school within the city’s boundaries the opportunity to create teams and play a regular season against their own community or neighboring towns. In June, leagues have the opportunity to select and enter All-Star teams to compete in the Little League International Tournament.
There would be many benefits to having Little League softball in Turlock, Coletto said, one of which would be to provide a pipeline for girls to prepare them for the competitive nature of high school and college softball, if they choose to continue playing.
“Right now, for youth, I don’t believe there’s that softball culture in Turlock and that’s what we’re looking to add — that competitive culture for local softball versus travel softball to be able to have girls that want to play, give them the opportunity to do so and prepare them for high school ball,” Coletto said. “We want to hopefully give a better talent pool to the high schools and then ultimately a better talent pool to CSU Stanislaus where girls can stay here locally and play.”
In addition to the higher education opportunities that softball and all sports can provide, Coletto also pointed out the lessons that young girls can learn while playing which will help them both on and off the field.
“Playing sports becomes an engrained part of who you are. It builds leadership skills, self-esteem, discipline and that’s what we really want young girls to understand,” she said. “Do your best to get your child to take a leap of faith, join a team and experienc the internal strength it can build, not just the external strength.”
In order for the city’s American or National League to charter Little League softball in Turlock, Coletto and Currie need to gauge how much interest there is to bring the sport into the city. An information night for parents, potential coaches and volunteers will be held next week to talk about what it means to be in Little League and its associated costs, as well as to simply get a feel for how many Turlock children ages six through 12 would be interested in playing and how many community members wish to volunteer.
“It’s our inaugural season so that’s super exciting for girls to be a part of the first season — no little girl will ever forget that her entire life. How many people can say they were there at the beginning of something?” Coletto said. “I really hope that excites people and gets people out there wanting to be a part of something new and part of starting up something really positive in our community.”
The Little League softball information night will be held from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 1 at the First United Methodist Church on the corner or Arbor Way and Berkeley Avenue. Parents of girls ages six through 12 are encouraged to attend, as well as those looking to coach or volunteer in any way. For more information, contact Coletto or Currie at TurlockLLsoftball@gmail.com or 209-441-8018.