by Michael Roley
Softball was in the air Sunday morning.
On a cloudy morning at Aurora Sports Complex, where the sun couldn’t seem to make up its mind, peeking back and forth between clouds constantly, plenty of hopeful fastpitch players were on the diamond in front of multiple college coaches for College Camp Sunday, ahead of the Triple Crown Colorado 4th of July tournaments set for this week throughout the Front Range.
As rain-filled clouds loomed and with the audible noise of the occasional airplane landing at nearby Denver International Airport present, players ranging from the Classes of 2019 to 2023 went through numerous drills run by college coaches. The drills covered all facets of the game, including hitting work off the tee and batting practice before the four-hour morning session culminated with an hour-long scrimmage.
College programs across the nation were on-hand from the likes of Cal State Fullerton to East Coast teams such as Harvard and Penn. A number of schools from Power 5 conferences were well-represented during the morning session including Ole Miss, Illinois, Oregon State, Utah, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, and Syracuse.
In-state programs Colorado State and Colorado Mesa were also conducting camps Sunday.
There were many positive aspects to Sunday’s session from a softball standpoint, but one thing that stood out was how players from numerous different teams were able to come together and compete during the drills and scrimmage. Many players had never seen each other before, and may not see each other much going forward, but for several hours they created camaraderie around the game they love.
“I was a little nervous at first because a lot of my team isn’t here and I don’t really know anyone,” said Sara Tripp of the Washington Acers 14U team. “But it was cool meeting new people. I found out where everybody was from and I was really engaging with them.”
Of course, the players were in competition with each other trying to catch the eyes of the college coaches. But there wasn’t anything mean-spirited or tense going on between players and their interactions with each other.
“Everyone was friendly,” said Marisa Salazar of the SoCal Atheltics-Limo 14 U team. “You could just go up and talk to people and they’d talk back with you.”
The players weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the day, either. The coaches who were running the drills and supervising the scrimmages did as well. They were very much in their element, throwing batting practice and coaching the players during workouts.
There were no radar guns held by the coaches during pitches nor any mad scribbling on a clipboard after a good play like one would expect in a combine or tryout atmosphere. They were simply coaching and teaching.
“To me, this is much more enjoyable,” Illinois assistant coach Laura Trout said. “I don’t really like the combine setting type thing. There’s a time and place for it but the more chances we get to work with them and teach them, it grows the game a little bit. Just the stuff we see throughout recruiting, you can see the stuff that just isn’t taught well. This is our chance to help and improve in those areas.”
“It’s always nice to just coach,” Oregon State assistant coach Adam DeRusha said. “You have a feel for the ones who are throwing pretty hard, the ones with good movement and all that stuff you usually track. So we have a good feel but it’s nice to just go back to the basics.”
Now, the attention shifts from Sunday’s camp to a week’s worth of games. The players are excited to see what is in store and what the competition from around the country looks like.
“I’m just excited to play all these different teams and see what’s different than what we do,” Maile Limosnero of SoCal Athletics said.
On the other hand, many of the college coaches in town certainly won’t have an abundance of idle time. When asked how many games they’ll observe this week, both DeRusha and Trout quickly smiled.
The most fitting answer: A lot.
“I have no clue,” DeRusha said. “At a facility like this with four fields, we’ll be watching two or three at the same time, maybe even all four. So it could be four there and then the next hour four more. It’s going to be a lot.”