This summer marks the 31st season Andover has offered a girls recreation slowpitch softball league through the Andover Athletic Association.
Despite the explosion of fast pitch and ultra-competitive, club-based opportunities, Andover and Coon Rapids continue to offer kids an alternative.
Andover fielded 43 teams while Coon Rapids had 25 teams of its own to show the need is there for slowpitch.
“It’s just a snapshot that speaks to our hanging on to this activity,” said Pat Wilson ,with AAA’s slowpitch program
He estimated slowpitch typically atrracts 500-600 kids to the program, 10 times more than the fastpitch counterparts.
The draw from other sports like lacrosse, volleyball and soccer have taken priority with larger time and financial commitments.
Older players pay a year $105 fee that covers a uniform, two in-house tournaments and awards.
Wilson added: “No surprises or extra charges and no matter what team your child may be playing on a given night, there’s a good chance the parents will know someone on the opposing side.”
Wilson said the Andover program has remained strong because of the connection to the past where today’s parents grew up playing in the Andover program and now their kids are following.
“And the fact that we refuse to give in to the notion that it’s competitive fast pitch or nothing, like many cities have,” Wilson said.
AAA and its members raised money to add scoreboards, a sound system and dugouts to make the league even more attractive.
“All games are there, period. It’s a great atmosphere,” he said. With so many teams competing, Andover has become a regular at state tournaments.
One team recently disbanded after everyone reached well-beyond the official league age cut-off.
“A group of 20-somethings played together for years known as the Wildcats and won five state championships along the way,” Wilson said.
Teams like RAI Redhawks won two state championships, Andover Storm won two of the last three state titles and the U14 team known as Psych won a USSSA state championship.
The season ends with a weekend-long tournament (June 28-30) that goes beyond softball game with a skills contest and all-star games for each age group. All-star teams are voted on by teammates.
Jason Olson is at