Travelling players, parents 'sacrifice' summer

For players on a travelling softball team the typical teenage summer of lying out at the pool, earning the first paycheck, or just spending time at the local hangout is only what they hear about from friends when school resumes.

"These girls make a lot of sacrifices," said Debbie Dunlap, whose 15-year-old daughter plays for the Colorado Astros, a collaboration of girls who live in the Boulder area. "With the high school season and the travelling season the only times they get off are around Thanksgiving and Christmas."

The Astros will travel all around the Midwest and West this summer, spanning the area from Salt Lake City to Detroit.

The girls get from place to place with the help of their parents, who make some sacrifices as well.

"It would be really weird to stay home and watch a Rockies or Broncos game at the actual stadium," said Dunlap. "But the girls have to get there somehow and while some of them are reaching driving age, that is almost more scary than comforting."

"This is the best way to see them in the summer," said Heather "Sarge" Waukau, while he videotaped his daughter, Eileen, pitch for the Lakewood Renegades. "Yesterday I helped her with her swing since her bat had been a little silent. Today I get to see it pay off with a solid hit."

Travelling to tournaments every weekend allows teams to play at least five or six games, an advantage over recreational leagues in which teams at the most might play three games in a week. The extra time on the diamond allows the girls more experience and possibly more exposure to college scouts.

"Almost all of these girls are playing for college scholarships," Dunlap said. "There were several scouts at the tryouts for the Astros and while NCAA coaches can't talk to the girls until they are juniors, the NAIA coaches start sending letters to them when they are sophomores."

College scholarships, however, are not the main driving force behind spending most of the summer in a car, on a diamond, or in a hotel. The girls have passion for the sport and they enjoy what they are doing.

"We have won like 2 of our sixty games," said Amanda Sundridge of the Lafayette Lady Warriors. "But it is so much fun spending time with my teammates on and off the field I wouldn't want to be doing anything else."

Dunlop had a similar explanation: "The 5 o'clock wake up calls and the three weeks of continuous games are tiring for them sometimes. But if she didn't love it, neither of us would be here."

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