by Michael Smith
Tryouts for the Grain Valley softball team are just a month away.
That’s the day many of the Eagles freshmen and sophomore mark their calendars for during the summer as it is their chance to earn a spot on the C, junior varsity or sometimes even varsity.
While that’s one of the most important dates for the Eagles, the work they put in before that may be just as vital.
Every Tuesday Grain Valley has had voluntary open field sessions where players could work on hitting, fielding and overall fitness at the softball field. On Monday through Thursday, athletes from any sports, including the softball players, can attend volunteer weight sessions.
“This is definitely beneficial for the coaches and the players,” Grain Valley head softball coach Garrett Ogle said. “Open field isn’t super structured but it allows the girls to prepare for tryouts and it gives the coaches an early look at our players.
“To see our freshmen grow from the first week of summer workouts until now has been awesome. The freshmen have showed up to lift weights every day,
“We’ve had about 12-15 girls here every day. It’s been a pretty good turnout.”
During field days, Ogle has made fundamentals a primary focus. Players have an outside cage where they can hit off a pitcher or tee and the Eagles also have worked on their defense during fielding drills.
“We don’t do a lot of practice work, necessarily,” Grain Valley assistant coach Jennifer Jennings said. “We do a lot of skill work.”
Not only is it a benefit for improving their skills, the summer workouts are integral in building team chemistry, Jennings and her players said.
“Bonding and getting to know each other is the biggest thing that we are getting out of this.” sophomore Jenna Manning said. “It also takes away some nerves and it lets the coaches know that you are here to get better.”
Added Jennings: “You are talking about girls who play over 100 games during the summer. They play a lot of softball. The biggest benefit for them is they get familiar with the school and they get familiar with the coaching. It makes tryouts a little less stressful for them.”
And could help the underclassmen fill some voids left by four seniors who graduated from last year’s teams, three of which were on the Missouri all-star team during the Mo-Kan All-Star Softball Series. Some of the underclassmen who have been showing up to lift weights four days a week will have an opportunity to earn a spot on varsity.
“We have a lot of holes to fill, especially at the top of the lineup,” Ogle said. “From what we’ve seen this summer, some of these girls could be put in key spots on the field this season. There’s a lot of shoes to fill, though.”
Grain Valley's Olivia Slaughter takes a cut on a weighted ball during Tuesday's open field session. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley's Riley Hodson practices hitting off a tee. Photo credit: Michael Smith