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Chance to learn from the best

Mayhem to host Team USA Softball Clinic

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Chance to learn from the best

The Manteca Mayhem, as well as the Team USA Softball Clinic essay award winners pose during practice Saturday at Northgate Softball Complex. FRONT ROW: Alejandra Rascon, from left, Katie O'Leary, M...

BRANDON PETERSEN/The Bulletin/


POSTED March 2, 2009 4:12 a.m.
On April 9 and 10, Manteca area youth softball players, as well as young women throughout the Central Valley, will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn the fundamentals of softball from some of the best players ever to play the game.
Names like Jessica Mendoza, a three-time Olympic athlete and the president of the National Women’s Sports Foundation, Laura Burke, the only softball player ever to compete in four Olympic Games, and former UCLA catcher Emily Zapalotsch, will all be on hand at Big League Dreams Sports Complex in Manteca for two days during Spring Break as a part of the Mayhem Fastpitch-hosted Team USA Softball Clinic.
Mayhem president Brian Johnson has enlisted the services of five Beijing Olympic gold medalists, and two more from the Sydney Games.
“A lot of camps are just an autograph session,” Johnson said. “Girls go to Jennie Finch’s camp just to get her autograph. I wanted the girls to leave our camp with more than an autograph; I wanted them to leave with knowledge.”
Ever since the Manteca-based Mayhem Fastpitch softball organization began in 2008, Johnson says its main goal has been to do whatever it takes to help benefit the girls of Manteca.
As a part of the promise, the Mayhem held an essay contest in January to award two local athletes with paid admission to the Team USA camp.
After all the essay submissions were read, two stood out above all others.
Manteca’s Brooke Mejorado, a 13-year-old attending Lincoln School, and Ceara Costa, a 10-year-old from Atwater, were named the contest winners and awarded their scholarships.
The theme of the essay contest was, “What does the sport of softball mean to you, and how has Team USA influenced you?”
“I wrote that it was more than just a game, it was a passion,” Mejorado said. “Team USA inspired me by showing how their teamwork was so tight. They worked as a team really well.”
Mejorado, a second baseman, started playing baseball seven years ago, and made the switch to softball in 2006.
Costa, a pitcher, felt that softball meant family.
“I wrote about how both my brother and I like to play, and how we help each other,” she said. “My dad always wanted us to play so that my brother and I always had something to do together.”
Said Johnson:  “With the hard times right now, not every girl can afford to pay for a clinic, and as long as the girls had the will, we wanted to try and do something for them.
“We’re pretty privileged in Manteca. We’ve got two great softball complexes, two training academies and a specialty store.
“Manteca is the hotbed of softball.”
With seven hours of softball instruction from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (lunch will be provided), focused mainly on mechanics, Johnson said his focus was finding not necessarily the biggest names, but the best instructors to teach at the clinic.
Included among the Olympians are catchers, slap-hitters, bunters, outfielders and infielders.
The fourth-string pitcher on the Beijing Olympic team will be on hand, as well as the third string pitcher for the Sydney club.
“The whole thing has been a really good experience,” Johnson said. “And the funny thing is, a lot of these girls have been all around the world, but when I mentioned Manteca, a lot of them said, ‘Hey, I remember coming to Manteca to play.’
“It’s pretty neat when you have a woman from Minnesota still remembering Manteca from her grammar school days, or having someone else say, ‘Hey I’ve driven past Big League Dreams, but I’ve never been. I really want to go.’
“That’s pretty cool. It really is.”
But while the sport is thriving in Manteca and throughout the state of California, softball has been eliminated from the London Games in 2012.
The economic downturn and a lack of funding for an Olympic softball facility was the reason cited by the Brits.  
“For most of these girls that are playing right now, this could be the last bunch of Olympic players they’ll have a chance to play with,” Johnson said. “The Olympics have speed walking and badminton, but they don’t have softball.”
Currently there is a ballot before the International Olympic Committee that will be voted on in October. If approved, softball will be put back on the agenda for the 2016 Games.
To help support the Olympic softball cause, visit  www.savesoftball.com.
To sign up for the April 9 and 10 Team USA Softball Clinic at Big League Dreams, visit www.mayhemfastpitch.com/clinics, or call Johnson at (209) 915-0439.

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