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Youth Softball and Baseball Teams Have a Stellar Year

 

By Chris Sinclair

As summer deepens into August, the cornstalks approach full height, the heat grows bolder and heavier, and only one sport remains on the schedule: America’s own, baseball. While the national pastime may not be the favorite sport of every American, most of us have some fond baseball or softball memories buried in the nostalgia sections of our mental libraries—the satisfying crack of good bat-on-ball contact, an efficiently turned double play, lining up and shaking hands after a tough game, win or lose. While for some, these memories lie well in the past, for others they are not memories at all but rather a present reality.

Two groups of young sluggers from Norfolk registered stellar seasons this spring and summer on both the baseball and softball diamonds. The Norfolk/Colebrook Avalanche, comprising girls in grades four through seven, made it to the league championship after finishing dead last in their league only two seasons before. In light of this meteoric rise, Jon Barbagallo, who coaches alongside Stan Dzenutis, Shayne Young and Ann DeCerbo, commented that “what excites and impresses me most about the girls is the amount of improvement from our first practice in April to the championship games at the end of June.”

Not to be outdone, the Majors baseball team, made up of boys aged 10-12, made it to their championship series under the direction of coach Marc Crone as well. After a tough loss in the third game of the series, Marc and his crew combined forces with a Barkhamsted team and have continued playing into the summer, with well over 30 games in the books.

While both Norfolk’s teams stacked up quite a few wins on their way to impressive records, Barbagallo and Crone agree that the real magic of baseball and of youth sports more generally lies in the unique learning opportunities that sports and athletics present to young people. Crone notes, “Youth sports provide an avenue for these kids to learn commitment, camaraderie, teamwork” and to experience both the “joy of winning and the disappointment of losing.” Barbagallo recalls seizing on one of these opportunities during a huddle in one of the Avalanche’s championship games. He says,  “I asked the group how many of them had that queasy, nervous feeling in their stomach.” After a near unanimous show of hands, he encouraged them “to use that feeling to push themselves to make the big play, to get the big hit and to turn it into a positive.” The girls ran with that advice, had fun with it and went on to win the game.

On the baseball and softball diamonds, far from any screens and devices, kids continue to play a 150-year-old game, and in the process they learn how to win and lose with grace and dignity, band together to work toward a common goal and find strength hidden within themselves that they may not have known they possessed. If recent trends are any indication, there are a great many championship series and games awaiting the young sluggers of Norfolk in the seasons to come.

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