Changes in the way the Bethel Park Girls Softball Association is running its spring fastpitch program have brought complaints from two parents whose daughters were cut from the team this year.
Marcia Mineo and Donna DeSantis said their 13-year-old daughters did not make the team this year when the program changed from an all-play system to a try-out league, locking them out of recreational fastpitch ball in Bethel Park for the spring.
While the association has been around for about 25 years, this is only the third year it has offered fastpitch girls softball, said Chuck Petronie, vice president of the association's board.
The big difference between traditional slowpitch softball games and fastpitch softball games is the way the ball is pitched. Both use underhand pitching motions, but in fastpitch the ball is whipped in a flat line at a higher velocity. Slowpitch pitches must have an arc and are tossed softly rather than with that whipping motion. Instead of games being dominated by hitting, fast-pitch games are usually dominated by pitching because the ball is hard to hit
This year, more than 600 girls play recreational softball in Bethel Park with 84 of them on a fastpitch team.
For the last two years, the association has run the league with all players getting assigned to teams, with sometimes as many as 16 kids on a team. That arrangement didn't get kids much playing time since only nine girls on are the field at one time, Mr. Petronie said.
Also, the teams did not have winning seasons.
"We started to examine our program," he said.
This year the league put a limit of 12 players on a team, and fielded teams based on the availability of pitchers and managers. Players then tried out for spots. In the age 12-and-under age group, five players were cut and three teams were formed. In the 15-and-under age group, nine players were cut and two teams were formed. The age 10-and-under group and age 18-and-under group both had one team each with no cuts.
Donna DeSantis was dismayed to learn her daughter did not make the 15-and-under team, although she was told her daughter could play slowpitch.
"Those two sports are not the same," she said.
She was told her daughter could join a fastpitch ballclub or take clinics at colleges.
She said those were too far away.
She also was told her daughter could play recreational fastpitch in Bethel Park in the fall.
She said girls have other things to do in the fall.
Finally, her daughter found a spot in the recreational league in West Jefferson Hills. But she wants her to be able to play in Bethel Park.
"They changed how they are doing this rec program without much input from anyone else," she said.
The association sent out a letter documenting the potential changes in December through e-mail but Ms. DeSantis said she did not receive it.
"This is a rec program. All girls should be allowed to play," she said. "There is no reason to make it competitive."
Ms. Mineo said she offered to coach an extra team of 15-and-under girls but they could not find enough girls to play, she said. She also asked Bethel Park Recreation Director Gary Lafever if the municipality could start an all-play fastpitch team. He said such a team would not be under his purview but that parents could take the matter to the Bethel Park Recreation Board, which meets the first Wednesday of every month.
Mr. Petronie said it can be tough to find pitchers. Also, fastpitch demands higher skill than slowpitch and safety is a concern.
"Fastpitch is a little intimidating. It's even intimidating to the kids," he said. He said since this is the first year of cuts, it would probably be the hardest for those who don't make the team to understand, but from then on, they would see how the system works.
But he said it's the association's goal to have as many girls play as possible.
"None of these guys are out to hurt any girls," he said. "Why would we?"
Laura Pace can be reached at email@example.com or 412-851-1867.