Merlene Davis: Thoughts of the 'girls of spring' can chase away the winter blahs

I'm not alone in hoping Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow Feb. 2, thereby signaling a quick end to these cold, dreary, snowy days that we have had to endure for so long.

I am also not alone in knowing we still have the second half of a long, cold winter ahead of us.

To counter that depressing fact, I've been buying seeds and other garden items that, thankfully, have begun to appear in stores, and I have browsed outdoor fabrics to find just the right one to cover patio cushions.

And then I received an e-mail from Angela Horton boasting about a new fast-pitch softball league that seems to have brought joy to families on the north side of town.

Just the thought of softball signs-ups had flowers blooming all around my desk.

Horton is a board member of Lexington Fast-Pitch Softball, a league for girls 4-14, formed by parents late in the summer of 2009. Games are played at Constitution Park on Old Paris Pike.

"We view this as for the girls who live in this area, north and northeast Lexington," Horton said. "Their families live here, work here, go to church in this area. They should not have to drive 20 minutes, to Cardinal Run (Park) to play softball."

Cardinal Run is home to games played by the successful Bluegrass Girls Fast Pitch softball league, another independent organization that was formed in 2003 when two other leagues combined.

At a time when, in many families, both parents work and have to find ways to shuttle multiple children to multiple activities, having the option of playing softball in a neighborhood park is economical and less stressful, Horton said.

Plus, "I pick up the paper and there is not a whole lot of human interest in our neighborhoods," she said. "We're serving an underserved part of the city."

During the spring and summer of 2009, about 48 girls were playing softball at Constitution. When the parents joined and formed a new league for the fall, 70 girls signed on. The numbers doubled this year.

"Normally you see a big drop-off from the summer to the fall," she said, "but we worked very hard for about six or seven weeks to get the word out. That was the first fall season offered to a lot of new girls. We found a lot of girls who had no idea there was a league specifically for girls.

"They've come and they've stayed," Horton said.

During the spring and summer of 2010, 150 girls played on 13 teams, she said.

Most of the girls lived in the Bryan Station Road area, but they spread the word at their schools, and their friends signed up as well.

Girls have now joined from subdivisions in Masterson Station and Winburn, along Eastland Parkway and near Castlewood Park, and from Dixie, Deep Springs, Mary Todd, Sandersville and Liberty elementary schools, she said.

"We have been committed from the first to try to never let the limited ability or inability to pay keep a child from participating," Horton said in her e-mail to me. "With that in mind, we had over $1,200 in full or partial scholarships in our first season in existence. We would like to continue that policy and are now actively searching for community partners to help defray the cost of running the league so that we can have as many girls participate as (who) want to, not just who can afford to."

The league also wants to reach out to the numerous Hispanic families in the area, she said. But they need help in overcoming the language barrier. "We are excited about all of those possibilities and will deal with any roadblocks that come with the great response we fully expect," she said.

Sign-ups are under way, Horton said. Fees are $50 for T-ball and $90 for girls age 7 to 14. Those who sign up before the end of January will be able to participate in the fall for free.

Sign-ups are from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 5 and 12 at Eastland Bowling Alley, 750 East New Circle Road; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 19 and 26 at Dick's Sporting Goods in Hamburg and March 5 at CiCi's Pizza in Eastland Shopping Center. If you eat at CiCi's that day and drop your receipt in a box, the league will get a percentage of the cost.

Or you can sign up online at Call (859) 904-9016 for information or to be a corporate sponsor.

"We have a great little start," Horton said. "We want, in 10 years, for this to be the best value in town, and the place you want to come to play."

Just thinking about that should warm your heart long enough to melt a few flakes of snow.