It’s spring, and while some girls play lacrosse, others play softball. Not many people know that the Optimist Club of Boyertown runs a softball program. The program started in 1974 by Bill Spade and Bill Vendetti. In 1977, the club received a district award and has been growing ever since.
In fact, it grew so quickly, that new fields were soon needed. The club built a field at Colebrookedale Elementary in 1979. The two fields at Boyertown Junior High East were built in 1995 thanks. in part to Bob Brightbill and Ray Beaver, two coaches in the program. Brightbill was the chairman of the program at the time. They started playing on the fields in 1998.
One might even say that the Optimist softball program is the best kept secret in Boyertown. The fields are hidden in the back off of Dotterer Road, and not many people even know that they’re there. The program has 175-180 kids out for the past three years. Ed Goltz, head of the Optimist softball program, feels that a lot of the players come from word of mouth.
Goltz took over the program in 2008. He first started out as an assistant coach on his oldest daughter’s (Megan) team. He took over as head coach the follow year. He continues to coach a 10U team with his youngest daughter Madison.
When asked if he ever imagined taking over the program, he said with a laugh that “no he didn’t.” Goltz took over for Calvin Schwank who was moving on because his daughter was going to college.
“I’ve been doing it all myself, and I enjoy it,” said Goltz. “I enjoy working with the kids. Seeing them progress throughout the year. The season is very short, it’s two and half months long. The progression from when they start, especially the new girls, is tremendous. They can’t throw, they can’t catch, but by the time we finish up our season, the improvement is vast.
“My biggest thing is to have fun and teach the girls the basics. It’s my goal to have them ready if they so chose to play up, or play in junior high.”
Why do the girls chose to play in the Optimist softball program? The answers vary.
“I’m very outgoing and I like to play in the outfield,” said Cydney Kiedaisch. “When I moved up this year, I thought it was going to be a lot of fun.”
“I play softball because it’s fun,” said Lauren Eves. “I always like being in the outfield because I like getting people out.
“I play softball because it’s the only sport I really like,” said Amanda Kreger. “It’s daring trying to get people out. My favorite part is batting. I like hitting it. and hitting it into the outfield.
“I want to play for the Boston Red Sox,” said Anna Fryer. “I like batting because I like running the bases and having fun.
“I play softball because it’s a lot of fun,” said Olivia Wilson. “I like the adrenalin when you’re catching the ball and trying to get someone out.
The softball program had 5-8-year-olds playing on one team. However, this year Goltz made a change. Five and six-year-olds are in one group, while the seven and eight-year-olds are in another. Goltz feels that this is working out much better. Coaching those teams are Dave Lewis and Leanne Fanelli.
The Boyertown Storm softball program was looking to add a 10U team last year, with Amanda Morgan as the head coach. While putting the team together, she heard about the Sunday Select program. So according to Goltz, she took the ball and rolled with it. The softball program added two Sunday Select teams, travel teams that play games on Sundays against other Sunday Select teams. He feels that’s been a nice addition to the softball program.
“I think they’re much more ready for what’s to come,” said Goltz.
There is also a 12U Sunday Select team.
These are teams comprised of girls who are a little more serious about softball. They are there to improve their game. Goltz tries to keep the real serious competition out of the rec league.
The Sunday Select teams faced some growing pains in the first season. The players didn’t practice together much, which made it hard. Goltz and the rest of the people involved with Sunday Select didn’t know what type of level of play the other teams were at, which they found out very quickly.
“It was high. They took it very seriously,” said Goltz. Neither team won a game last year. However the 10U team has lost one game all season this year, and the 12U team just won a tournament in Oley.
As I walked over to talk to two of the Sunday Select players, Sarah Freed and Alex Schaefer, I asked them how playing Sunday Select has helped their softball game. Their answers didn’t vary that much.
“It’s helped me develop more softball skills,” said Freed. “I can throw better, I can hit better and I have more opportunities to play. The opponents we play make me better.”
“They give me more of a challenge,” said Alex Schaefer. “We face better teams to play and helps me get better. I love pitching,” said Schaefer. “I just like to do it.”
As for future goals, Goltz’s answer was simple. “I want to improve a little every year,” said Goltz. “I want it to be better, but not necessarily bigger, every year. I think so far we’ve done that.”
Phil Haddad is a free lance writer for the Times. You can follow him on Twitter @writersprtsBT