The Roanoker - July/August 2017 - 129
department, estimates that Roanoke
City has 50-60 slowpitch league teams, Roanoke
County has 40-50 and Salem has
an average of about 30. At 15 players
per team and 120 teams on the low end, that
would be a conservatively estimated 1,800 softball
players in those three jurisdictions playing through the
rec departments. There are also church leagues and various junior highs, high schools and two colleges have fast
pitch girl/women players and there are a few fast pitch
girls travel teams.
That's a lot of softball, but the fact is that it's not
nearly what it was 20 years ago.
"From 1997 to about 2001, we generally had about
200 teams for a [slow-pitch] softball tournament at
the Moyer Complex [in Salem]," says Shaner. "That's
down to about 130 now for the biggest tournament,
the Chance Crawford," in April. That tournament is still
one of the biggest in the East, but, says Shaner, "There's
just so much more for people to do now."
The Roanoke Valley-principally because of Salem's
initial efforts under Hammersley's leadership-was out
front in using softball as a lure for visitors, and it remains a leader, though "the jurisdictions around us are
building facilities that are [truly impressive]," says Shaner. "We stay competitive because we have good facilities and we look to bring people into the Valley to play
tournaments because that's all new money for us."
The game can be expensive for the players: there is,
of course, the cost of travel (hotels, meals, gas, etc.), the
team cost of tournament entry fees ($350 seems about
average) and then the cost of getting started. Bats run
about $300, gloves $200, shoes $50-$100, but, says
player Shaun Scott, "equipment doesn't make the player.
I try to keep costs at
a reasonable level."
A close look at softball in
the Roanoke Valley has led us to
some conclusions: Softball has truly
become a game for Americans, one where
they can relax or excel, can be gay or straight,
black or white or brown, rich or poor, professional
or blue collar, married or single, beer drinker or latte
sipper. They can be as young as 10 or as old as 86-in
this story. They are all welcome.
Here are some of those who play locally:
DAMAGE AND RECOVERY
Morgan McAfee, 31, served two tours of duty in Afghanistan in combat "casualty care" and still suffers occasional bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder. Her day
there consisted of helping wounded-sometimes grievously-soldiers. Softball "helps me deal with it. Some
days I have anxiety and softball helps me forget it and
not focus on it. I've tried a lot of things; this works best."
McAfee is the women's fast-pitch softball coach at
William Fleming High School and is the single mother
Top: Charlie Hammersley
helped make the valley a
Above: Shaun Scott
and Kayla Dean find
togetherness in softball.
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