BETHLEHEM — With the first day of high school softball practices starting in less than a week, the Bethlehem Softball Booster Club held a clinic to prepare area players for tryouts.
Approximately 40 players participated in the two-hour evening clinic Saturday, Feb. 27, at Bethlehem Central High School. Coaches from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and The College of Saint Rose were among those who worked with the players on fielding, pitching, hitting and agility.
“All the credit goes to Antoinette Rarick, our booster club president,” said Bethlehem varstiy coach Karen Gentile. “She has a lot of connections throughout softball because her daughter, Kaitlyn, travels around and plays for different teams.”
MCLA coach Jamie Trudeau guided the players through the mechanics of hitting – an aspect of the sport that is being emphasized more these days to offset the dominance pitchers have had in softball for the last couple of decades.
“We’re breaking down the mechanics of the swing so that when all of those drills come together, they can develop a solid swing,” said Trudeau.
Pat Blum used a series of drills to help players improve their footwork. Players hopped over small cones, ran sideways through a fabric ladder and practiced running backwards.
“Agility-wise, pretty much the biggest thing is quick feet,” said Blum. “And the girls who think they’re too slow, they’re not. They just have to be quicker with their feet.”
Gentile said timing the clinic close to when spring sports practices begin gives the players a head start.
“We want to get these girls ready for tryouts,” said Gentile. “And, it’s a good fundraiser for our softball booster club.”
Having college coaches teach the players those fundamentals also helps, as some of them are getting ready for playing at the next level.
“Any time you can get young girls involved to prepare them for college softball, you have to reach out and help,” said Blum.
And it can also give the coaches an idea of what talent exists in Bethlehem and surrounding communities such as Albany, Colonie and Guilderland.
“It’s a good experience, especially for the younger girls who need to be exposed to this level of softball,” said Gentile.
Ultimately, said Trudeau, it’s about giving young softball players the tools they need to be successful.
“I do it more for the players and their development. It’s an opportunity for me to give back to the sport,” said Trudeau.