June 24, 2010

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Penn Charter, Springside players conduct PAL softball clinics

At one of last week’s PAL clinics at Penn Charter, the Quakers’ Katie Brock helps a young protégé position her bat at home plate. Looking on are clinic organizer Mackenzie Kramer (far left), Springside’s Michelle Cybularz (crouching) and PC’s Danielle Sienko (right, by backstop).

Mackenzie Kramer, a rising senior at Penn Charter and a three-year varsity softball player, had to change her plans for the summer before they’d even gone into effect.

“This summer I wanted to coach a softball team for the Police Athletic League (PAL), but I learned that there were no softball teams in their program and the girls had to play baseball with the boys,” the Quakers’ third baseman explained.

Undeterred, Kramer began to explore the possibility of forming softball teams within the organization. Wanting to gauge the level of interest, Sgt. Eric Ervin, Command Sergeant for PAL Center Activities, suggested that she hold several clinics for young girls from various centers.

The enterprising Quakers senior conducted two clinics last week at the Penn Charter softball field, drawing 64 children (mostly girls aged eight to 12, with a smattering of boys who came along for the trip) from half-a-dozen PAL centers last Monday. After that, 80 youngsters from eight PAL locations signed up for the second session on Thursday afternoon, some of them coming from as far away as Southwest Philadelphia.

“Some of them had played baseball, and a lot of others hadn’t,” Kramer said. “Some of them really wanted to hit and to field, but they didn’t know how.”

Staffing the clinics were a group of Penn Charter and Springside School students who play club softball along with Kramer on the Roxborough Fillies team. Liz Carpino, a 2009 PC graduate who now pitches for Widener University, came back to participate, along with Kramer’s classmate Katie Brock, rising junior Danielle Sienko, and sophomore Rachael Garnick. Three Springsiders were also on hand; juniors Alexis Giovinazzo and Aly Markey, and sophomore Michelle Cybularz.

“All of the Fillies girls just sort of put in their ideas and we came up with a plan on how to run it,” Kramer explained. “We divided them into infield and outfield groups. Some of them didn’t know what that was, but they knew that they liked catching the ball in the air as opposed to catching it on the ground, so we were able to split them up that way. Almost everyone liked to bat.”

Officer Mike Ragucci had driven a group of children over from the Nicetown PAL center, which is based at the Kenderton Elementary School, located a few blocks from the Temple University School of Medicine on North Broad Street. It’s one of more than two dozen centers that PAL operates throughout the city.

“PAL has traditionally had baseball teams,” he noted. “Girls can play, too, but it tends to be mostly boys. We want to throw some of the focus on the girls, so this was a nice opportunity for us.”

The youngsters engaged in instructive drills and games devised by the clinic staff, and at the end of Thursday’s gathering they were divided into teams and engaged in a scrimmage. It was evident that many of the PAL kids had learned a great deal in just a few hours, and at the end of the session there were plenty of hugs for their teenaged instructors.

Based on the success of last week’s outings at Penn Charter, a tournament at Penn Charter is being planned for later in the summer. PAL now intends to form a girls softball league for the summer of 2010, and Kramer will draw up the schedule next spring as part of her senior project.

“Some of the Roxborough Fillies are going to be coaches for the different teams, so it should be really fun,” she said. “I really like working with kids, and I love softball, so it’s been a lot of fun mixing the two together.”



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