'Susquehanna Showcase,' clinic aim to help softball grow in York


York County has shown an interest in the sport of fastpitch softball.

It was apparent last year when an extra several hundred — perhaps even 1,000 — fans showed up to a York Revolution game to meet former Olympian and National Pro Fastpitch star Jennie Finch. It will again be on display this weekend when the PA Rebellion, which plays out of the town of Washington, take on the USSSA Pride in a three-game series split between York's Santander Stadium and Lancaster's Clipper Magazine Stadium.

But Finch's appearance and this weekend's games put the spotlight on the professional side of softball.

On Wednesday night, however, it was all about the future of the game during an instructional camp hosted at Santander Stadium as part of the four-day event being billed as the "Susquehanna Showcase."

"I hope they see that there's a future for softball," camp coordinator and former Rebellion pitcher Anna Miller said. "The one thing I want them to learn is that it doesn't stop after college. That there is a future for you. That your dreams don't stop at college."

Learning experience: About 20 girls who participate in local youth fastpitch softball leagues came out to the clinic.

During the event, the girls were put through drills that ranged from basic throwing techniques, fielding and proper footwork to hitting exercises. It was a chance for the next generation of softball players to get first-hand instruction from some of game's top players.

"We're hoping to go over some of the fundamentals," Rebellion outfielder Brittney Lindley said before the camp clinic. "That's the most important part of the game. If you can do the fundamentals, then that's when the more quality play will start to happen."

Most of the girls in attendance still have several years of youth softball ahead of them before they need to make a decision on their next step with the game. So, aside from getting top-notch instruction from professional players who all played Division-I softball, it also was an opportunity for the younger players to learn that there are various ways to stay involved with softball, even if it doesn't include playing.

Miller knows about that part of the game, getting drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch draft, but she now serves the game as an instructor and representative for softball equipment manufacturer, Combat.

"Just letting them know that there's so much potential there for them," she said. "That there's a job for them, potentially, in sports. I work for Combat, so, after leaving last year, I got a full-time job working for Combat... There's so many opportunities for these girls that come from the NPF and I want them to see that it's not just about your athletic abilities. It's about the kind of person you are and how much you love the game of softball and helping giving back to softball because of that."

Passion for softball: According to Miller, fastpitch softball is one of the largest participant sports in the country. The strong turnout for Wednesday's clinic demonstrated just how passionate York County and the central Pennsylvania area are about the sport.

There's been some discussion about a possible expansion team that would be split between York and Lancaster joining the NPF because of the constant signs of support that the league and sport receive when they visit the area.

The idea is that, if a team was to come to the area, it would split its home games between Santander Stadium and Clipper Magazine Stadium while the Revolution and Lancaster Barnstormers are out of town.

Right now, there are only five teams in the NPF, with a local organization in York/Lancaster being a possible sixth. The league has a television deal with CBS Sports that televises games twice a week on Monday and Tuesday nights, according to Lindley, and with teams constantly traveling to new stadiums to showcase the game, it only helps to further the sport.

And with the reception the sport has gotten locally in recent years, Wednesday' attendance was just another example of how York is ready to take the next step in bringing the NPF to the area.

"I would love to see another team in Pennsylvania," Miller said. "It would give another reason to come to Pennsylvania to play games. So, you'd play the Rebellion and then come here and then spread northern. We don't have a more northern team than us. ...We want to spread east-to-west, north-to-south and that's part of the progression. We just have to keep continuing to grow and keep having success."

The first game of the three-game series between the two teams will be played Thursday night at Santander Stadium. The series will then shift to Lancaster for the final two games on Friday and Saturday. All three games have 6:35 p.m. start times.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com