Harrisonburg, Va., April 19, 2012-
The baseball field at Veterans Memorial Stadium was a blur of activity and excitement last week when the softball and baseball teams hosted a field day with approximately 90 students from Waterman Elementary School.
This year marks the second time that this event has taken place through a partnership between the baseball and softball coaches and the teachers at Waterman. Freshman pitcher Cody Miller said, "The event was directed by the baseball and softball coaches while players from each team worked the stations." Senior pitcher Josh Futter participated in the same event last year and enjoyed the opportunity to work with the students again.
"There were eight or nine groups of about ten kids," explained junior catcher Megan Shinaberry. "Each group went through one station at a time." Approximately eight different stations were set up on the baseball field, including wiffle ball, long toss, hitting and working with fly balls. Each station was directed by a pairing of a baseball and softball player who guided the children through each activity.
While some athletes worked the stations, others were group leaders and traveled to each station with their specific group of children. Sophomore outfielder Cassidy Clayton was a group leader and spent the afternoon with the same group of children. Clayton reflected about one of the boys in her group, "[He] played awesome at every station, while being very respectful to his classmates and all of us. He was so excited to be there." The girls in Clayton's group were also extremely engaged in the activities and continuously smiling during the afternoon.
The chilly temperatures and burst of snow flurries did not prevent the students from enjoying themselves during the event. Senior second baseman Caitlen Manning's favorite memory of the day involved the children and snow. "When it started snowing, one of the kids yelled, 'It really is....,'" explained Manning. "They were so distracted that I told them all of it was fake snow and another kid yelled, 'Oh no, I accidentally ate it. Ew!'."
Freshman pitcher Sarah Mooney recalled one of her favorite experiences of the day when manning the long toss station with freshman pitcher Chris Huffman. "There was a little boy from Anna Klumpp's group who was bound and determined to throw [the ball] over Chris' head in the competition," Mooney explained. "When he did it, he ran over and gave me a high give and a hug around my legs. It was precious!"
Miller also experienced a similarly entertaining situation with one of the boys in his group at the hitting station. "He was asking me questions at a rapid fire rate and then finally asked if he was dreaming because it was amazing how excited he was," explained Miller.
The athletes involved with the event unanimously enjoyed the opportunity to set aside an afternoon to share their beloved sport with local students. "I really enjoy community service and I love having the opportunity to interact with children from our community," said Manning. "I participate in community service events because it is so rewarding seeing what the kids get out of the experience."
Miller expressed similar sentiments when discussing the opportunity to combine baseball and community service. "I think we often take for granted how good our lives are at a university like JMU and being student-athletes and how much we have going for us," he explained. "I think it is the least we can do to let some kids come out and experience what we get to do every day."
Reflecting on the year thus far, Shinaberry explained, "I believe that as a team, we have always tried to stay involved with the community. But this year, we (JMU softball) have truly raised our own bar," she explained. "We have had many opportunities to make an impact and appreciate every one of them!"