Just beyond our borough’s walls, the Diamond Dolls softball team has been cleaning up in tournaments all over New Jersey and upstate New York.
The Dolls placed an impressive second overall in two separate tournaments in the past two weeks. The first was in Jackson, NJ, where the girls came in second out of 10 teams. Only one weekend later, they went to Lincoln Park, NJ for a “Spring Fever” tournament, where they again took the second place trophy, following a crushing loss in the championship game.
“This whole thing is definitely a time commitment, and we have very intense practices,” said Julianna Orrico, the team’s star pitcher. Orrico pitched 4 games in the last tournament, and 3 were shutouts. In the other, she only she gave up two runs. Games are only one hour apart. “We lose a lot of energy over the day,” she admitted, “but we keep cheering each other on. That’s how we get our energy back a little bit.” In the Lincoln Park tournament, the Dolls had to play in 90-degree heat. “By the last game everyone was exhausted,” said a younger player, who sounded weary just remembering the mugginess.
The Dolls play in fast-pitch games, and the team consists of middle school-aged girls who are highly-motivated athletes. Almost every one of them has goals of playing in high school, and some are already concerned with playing D1 softball in college. The girls are all between 11 and 12.
At the moment, the team is for 12 and under, so to be eligible, players have to be 12 or younger on January 1st of the new year. Orrico just barely made the cut; she turned 13 in February. Coach and organizer Eddie McCauley has plans to create a 14 and Under, and 10 and Under team so that older girls can play, and though it seems likely that will work, it is not an absolute certainty yet. That means that girls like Orrico won’t be able to continue with the Dolls after this season, unless the new teams come through in time.
Orrico, as do many of the other girls, has the option of a softball team through her school, but playing for the Dolls in independent league games actually affords her more freedom to play aggressively. “My school team is a rec-league team, so you aren’t allowed to do windmill, you can’t steal, can’t bunt,” she explained.
Most of the team’s 13 girls are from Pelham Bay, but there are girls from Morris Park and Country Club as well. Though they all come from different schools, they have become closer than they are with girls from their own classes. What seems to be the key to their camaraderie is an ethos they came up with called Holding the Rope. “It means that if you were hanging off the edge of a cliff, who would you want to be holding the rope? And the answer is you should want anyone on the team doing it,” said Orrico with pride.
As they continue to travel for hot summer tournaments the Dolls will have to keep holding that rope up high, for the sake of morale, and trophies.
Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org