Hopkins area girls learn softball skills at clinic
Sunday, Jan. 13, was a cold day in the Twin Cities metro area. Even so, it was a good day for outdoor activities such as skating, skiing or toboganning.
At Hopkins Eisenhower Community Center, girls ages 4-17 found another type of winter fun. They went through a variety of skills duing a Hopkins Fastpitch Softball clinic. Clinicians kept the girls moving from one drill to the next. When it ended, the girls were tired, but still very excited.
“This is a perfect opportunity for kids who haven’t played before, along with those who have,” said Hopkins Fastpitch president Kent Magaard. “The coaches cover hitting, fielding and throwing fundamentals, and there is time for the pitchers to work out, too. The biggest challenge at the youth level is to find pitching.”
In most cases, pitchers are good athletes, who have a willingness to learn the fundamentals. Clinics started on Jan. 6 and will run through March 10. They are open to pre-K through high school seniors.
“The ball is put in play quite a bit at the younger ages, so it is important to develop fielding and throwing mechanics,” said Magaard. “Strike Three Player Development is coordinating the clinics for us.”
During the spring and summer season, Hopkins Fastpitch offers traveling teams for 10-and-Under, 12-and-Under, 14-and-Under and 16-and-Under. Most of the girls who play on 18-and-Under teams play all-star ball as opposed to continuing with their community-based teams.
“Our traveling teams play in tournaments,” said Magaard. “We also have rec fastpitch teams. Those girls play in a league with teams from Orono, Plymouth, St. Louis Park and Wayzata.”
The Hopkins Fastpitch program offers a logical progression by age, Maggard noted. Girls start by hitting off a tee, then there is coach-pitch, then there is machine-pitch, and finally the girls are the pitchers.
Dave Lindstrom, vice-president of Hopkins Fastpitch, said he loves the options that are offered in the program. “Girls can still play fastpitch even if they’re not on the high school team,” he said.
Lindstrom, a former Division I baseball player at Texas Tech, who later played in the Detroit Tigers organization, said it has been a rewarding experience coaching young players in Hopkins Fastpitch Softball.
“I was fortunate to have good coaching when I came up through the ranks, including my dad [Dave Lindstrom Jr.],” Lindstrom noted. “He coached me until I was 15, and he taught me a lot about life. After that I played for Mike Streitz with the Park Center Twins. My college coach was Larry Hayes, a hall-of-famer. And in the pros, I worked with coaches like Alan Trammell and Dave Anderson. Dave is the third base coach for the Texas Rangers.”
Lindstrom said he is coaching to “pay it back.”
“It is very rewarding to me to coach my daughter Delaney,” he noted. “She is 8 now, and we have had a core group of a few girls that I have coached for three years. It is so much fun to watch them enjoy the game and improve their skills. In the early levels, it’s all about having fun and developing skills.”
Lindstrom, a longtime town team baseball all-star with the St. Louis Park Class A team, said the young girls all enjoy hitting.
“I tell the girls to keep their eye on the ball and swing hard,” he said.
Throwing is the most difficult skill for young players to master, Lindstrom added.
“It is difficult to develop proper mechanics because the softball is big and their hands are small,” he said.
The clinics offered during the winter months are designed to help young players with the basic skills through repitition and individual coaching. Contests are part of the program, too, and everyone seems to be having a great time.