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Team USA Clinic knocks one out of the park

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Beijing Olympic silver medalist and the University of Arizona's all-time leader in innings pitched, Alicia Hallowell, shares a laugh with Manteca's Kaytlyn Turpin Friday morning at the Team USA Sof...


POSTED April 11, 2009 4:39 a.m.
Manteca Mayhem president and 2009 Team USA Softball Clinic organizer Brian Johnson called the two-day instructional camp, which was held Thursday and Friday at Big League Dreams Sports Park in Manteca, a “who’s who” of the local and national softball worlds, and it’s not hard to understand why.

There were some very big names on hand, including four-time Olympic medalist (3 Gold, 1 Silver) Laura Berg, a former Fresno State centerfielder and the most highly decorated Olympian to compete in Beijing last summer.

Suisun City’s Alicia Hallowell was on hand as well. Hallowell, a pitcher on the Beijing squad, is the University of Arizona’s all time innings leader, surpassing Jennie Finch in 2006 with 887.2.

But it wasn’t all about the star-studded Olympic lineup.

Both the Manteca Baseball Softball Academy and MVP Sports Academy were on site and working hard with the campers, which ranged in age from 6 to 18.

East Union head coach Brian Goulart donated his time, as did former head coach Glen Brady and Manteca sophomore skipper Corey Navarro.

A number of local high school standouts served as volunteers, including Gabby Hawkins, Nycole Teeple and Melissa Bond, and still more were there for the education.

Karissa Valdez, Brittany LaMar, Rochelle Sellers, Jillian Goulart, Mariah Navarro were just a few of the 103 players that had a chance to experience softball training unlike any they could find anywhere else.

“The camp has been amazing,” Johnson said. “We have girls from Nevada, Oregon and Arizona. Everyone’s having a good time. It’s been very good.”

On Thursday, KCRA Channel 3 News visited, as did the Manteca City Council and a number of area newspapers.

Johnson announced Friday that because the event was so well received, Mayhem Fastpitch ( has already booked June 10 and 11, 2010 as the dates for the second annual installment.

“Everything has run really smoothly (at BLD) and we’d love to be back next year,” Johnson said. “With the economy in the shape it is, the hardest thing is to fill the park.

“We’re thinking in terms of 100 more campers next year and 10 to 12 Olympic instructors. It’s here for the kids, as long as people want to do it, we’re here for them.”

Johnson said he solicited Greg Wilson’s MBSA Academy and Chet Martin’s MVP Academy in hopes of recruiting a few extra helping hands.

“They brought all of their girls,” he said. “They’ve been a tremendous help, I couldn’t have asked for better volunteers out of Manteca. I asked for a few, and I got a lot.”

Ripon Babe Ruth player, 9-year-old Jennica Baldwin, stepped away from pitching drills to answer a few questions, and she did so with an ear-to-ear grin.

“I’m having fun,” she said. “I’ve learned fielding, cut-off person, pitching, and that’s all I’ve really been to right now.

“I’m learning a lot more (than I knew before).”

Berg took time out from working with the high school campers on cut-off throws to answer a few questions as well.

“It’s going great,” she said. “I love coming out here and working with the kids. They love the sport of softball. They’re little sponges – they soak everything up.”

Berg is one of the many Olympic athletes taking part in the campaign to have softball reinstated at the Olympic level in 2016.

The International Olympic Committee eliminated the sport from the 2012 London Games.

“We’ve done nothing wrong to get kicked out,” Berg said. “I look at my teammates that don’t have the opportunity to have three or four times on the Olympic team, and I’m disappointed for them. I’m disappointed for the young girls that are here and don’t have that opportunity in 2012.

“We’re hoping to get back in for 2016, and I think it looks really good.”

Berg says softball supporters should visit, and support the International Softball Federation in its push to make sure the sport takes its place back on the world stage following the London Games.

“Our job is to go and educate the IOC members that softball is different from baseball,” she said. “That’s what happened; we got lumped in with baseball. It stinks, but that’s the reality, so we just have to go out and educate them.”
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