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Young Softball Players Enjoy Expert Instruction
0319 OVYSA
Oakdale High School softball pitcher Melinda Koppinger shows youngsters the fundamentals of pitching during the recent OVYSA clinic. DENNIS D. CRUZ/The Leader

Oak Valley Youth Softball Association (OVYSA) teamed up with the Oakdale High School Lady Mustangs softball team and their coaches to hold a clinic for the young softball hopefuls.

With 250-plus sign-ups and over 150 kids showing up for the five-hour event, the youngsters got to work out with the Mustangs in various drills including basic stretching, fielding routine ground balls, base running, pitching, and outfield drills that included the “soft hands” technique.

“It’s an exercise to teach kids not to jab at the ball when it’s coming to you in the outfield, as well as the infield,” Lady Mustangs head coach Larry Loger explained.

The exercise featured assistant coach Paul Hackbarth tossing a small white, spongy like ball to the gloveless outfielders.

Ben Hernandez is entering his second season as OVYSA Commissioner and the clinic has been going on for 15-plus seasons. OVYSA is a non-profit organization that provides an opportunity for children in Oakdale and the surrounding communities to learn and play softball.

“We are excited about the upcoming season. The girls are looking forward to working with the high school team throughout the season,” said Hernandez during the clinic. “I cannot thank coach Loger, his staff and the girls enough for coming out here and helping out. What they teach the younger girls is immeasurable and really appreciated.”

For the OVYSA season, the teams are split up by age and experience groups (depending on player, coach and parent comfort level). Players 6 and under will play T Ball, 8 and under coach pitch, and fast pitch for kids 10- to 14. The season begins Saturday, March 29 with opening ceremonies at 8 a.m. and the first games to begin at 10 a.m. at Oakdale’s Kerr Park.

“Our opening day is a big celebration. We are all excited about the kids playing ball. We had the mayor come out last year and throw the first pitch,” added Hernandez.

The season wraps up on Saturday, May 24.

“The clinic went well. The kids had fun and so did the players. I hope they continue with softball and embraced what they have learned today and can utilize it on the field,” Oakdale Mustang sophomore JV third baseman Amanda Kerns said after the clinic.

As the clinic was wrapping up coach Hackbarth offered some words of wisdom for the young players.

“Focus both on and off the field. If you want to continue to play softball at a higher level, and even someday for OHS, you must focus on your grades, and staying out of trouble,” he said. “You’re student athletes. Student first, athlete second, please keep that in mind as you grow not just in OVYSA, but as you advance through different programs as you get older.”