The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every team in the United States. From changes to everyday training to modifications to the sports calendar, athletes around the globe have dealt with an …
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every team in the United States. From changes to everyday training to modifications to the sports calendar, athletes around the globe have dealt with an unusual past few months.
The Powell Storm 10U baseball team is no exception.
The team, which consists of players between 8 and 10 years old, began practicing in early March before the novel coronavirus forced a stop just two weeks in. This put the team’s season on hold for an entire month before returning with split-squad scrimmages, due to restrictions on the size of gatherings (to 10 people).
That month-long hiatus killed the Storm’s energy heading into the season, according to head coach Derek Solberg.
“All of that practice time was completely lost,” Solberg said. “If we wouldn’t have lost that time, we would have been a lot better from the start.”
The Storm finished the season 1-5 in official games, with an 8-7 win over Sheridan being the lone victory. While the pandemic certainly affected the team’s on-field performance early on, there was one very positive outcome: new bats.
Because all of their tournaments were canceled, the Storm had extra money from fundraisers to spend. So Solberg and his assistants re-invested the funding in wooden bats from the Prairie Sticks Bat Company.
The bats are customized with the team colors — orange and black — and have a custom font for each player on the barrel.
“It was really cool to give them the bats,” Solberg said. “It’s been a crazy last few months, so I felt like this was a good way to spend the money that they raised.”
Adding to the excitement, Prairie Sticks Bat Company wound up using the members of Storm as models for their products. The Red Deer, Alberta-based company is featuring a picture of the Powell squad — posing with their new bats — on the front page of its website.
Roughly half of the team used the Prairie Sticks bats for the 2020 season, with the rest sticking to their metal “USA” bats.
Though using new equipment is an exciting change, the adjustment takes time. The wood bats are drop-five (5 ounces less than the length in inches), meaning they are significantly heavier than the drop-10 USA bats.
When the players began using the new bats, Solberg noticed some issues with their swings. Whether they were dipping too much or swinging too long, the kids were struggling to find their groove at the plate.
But that changed as the season progressed.
“They got a lot better,” Solberg said. “They’ve started exploding with the hips and having more polished swings. We had one of our players who was struggling at the beginning go off in one of the last games and get multiple hits.
“They’ve come a long way.”
In their first two games, opponents defeated the Storm by a combined 25 runs. But by last week, the team had become significantly more competitive and more efficient in every aspect.
Both kids using metal bats and kids using wood bats saw their performance improve toward the end of the season.
“At the beginning, they were starstruck with the new quality of pitching,” Solberg said. “They started swinging the bat much better, and they had a better knowledge of the game.”
While Solberg is proud of how the team developed, the head coach knows he couldn’t have done it without a coachable group of players and cooperative assistant coaches.
“It’s a great group of kids,” Solberg said. “And I’d really like to thank Bret Fauskee, Waleryan Wisniewski, Stacey Carter and Jarad Mixon for being great assistants.”
Barring an unexpected change, the Storm are set to bring back every player next year. The team will have to move up a division because of their ages, but the kids are already looking ahead to their next time on the diamond.
“We finished our last game [on July 1] and they immediately started talking about next year,” Solberg said. “It will be great to have them all back.”