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Now it's softball's turn

Almost 10 years ago, Norfolk got its act together when it came to youth baseball.

An official Little League Baseball program was begun thanks to the leadership of a small group of baseball enthusiasts. It was a key initial step in trying to improve and better coordinate the various baseball offerings provided in the past.

The effort led to the combination of just about all of the existing private teams and city rec offerings. That helped lead to a gradual increase in the overall number of teams and interest in baseball, as well as improvements to Norfolk’s fields and the subsequent creation of the Gregory T. Mefford indoor hitting facility.

The effort hasn’t necessarily translated into a Norfolk team making the Little League World Series or the Norfolk High Panthers winning a state title, but progress has been seen. At the very least, Norfolk baseball now is a well-coordinated, well-run program for all involved.

We offer that bit of history because we’re pleased to see that there now is a somewhat similar effort taking place involving fast-pitch softball in Norfolk.

Dan Harstad of Norfolk, who moved here from Minnesota just a few years ago, is helping create the Northeast Nebraska Softball Academy, a community organization dedicated to the education, development and enhancement of female athletes ages 18 and under. He’s being assisted by Rick Benson of Norfolk,

“For some reason, there hasn’t been a seamless transition from our summer programs into our high school program,” he said. “Everywhere I have been that has had success has streamlined that process.”

What Harstad and Benson want to see happen is to have the academy work with established summer softball programs like the Golden Girls and Kelly’s, as well as Norfolk High’s softball team.

“We believe those programs are still very important for the younger age groups, but once you hit high school, we want the best of the best to be playing in the Mayhem program,” Benson said recently.

In this case, the word “mayhem” is designed to definitely have a positive meaning. That’s because the academy will field two Norfolk Mayhem teams for summer competition. The desire is that Mayhem players will build off their summer experience to help bolster Norfolk High’s program during the school year.

We applaud both Harstad and Benson for taking this project on. A coordinated, collaborative approach to girls softball can only translate into more success for those young athletes, just as the previous baseball effort has done for its participants.

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