Little League

Vine Ingle Little League grows with softball

Vine Ingle Little League softball head coach Katherine Smith speaks with her team during practice Sunday.
Vine Ingle Little League softball head coach Katherine Smith speaks with her team during practice Sunday.

The Vine Ingle Little League program played at Freedom Park in Macon has been a local staple for at least 30 years.

But as odd as it seems, the softball program has always been played as an independent league with no technical affiliation to the Little League program. That has limited the softball at Freedom Park in one very important aspect, which is playing in true All-Star tournaments.

That has all changed this year as the two separate programs have merged into one as the girls playing softball are now playing under the same Little League charter as the boys.

And sure enough, the first all-star softball team, the sandlot team, comprised of 7-8 year olds, brought home the district championship last week in the program’s very first all-star competition.

“The talks to merge them together has been ongoing,” said Michael Clay, who is the softball program’s vice president. “The girls program has had all-star teams, but they basically played each other at the end of the year. The girls and the parents had seen the Little League girls tournaments on television and started to ask what it would take to offer them the same opportunities as the boys had.

“It took a year to get it going, but the merge happened and it has been a great success. We had over 300 girls in the softball program and everyone is happy to have a chance to compete for district and state championships, and possibly even more.”

Not only have numbers increased, but playing under the Little League charter has also helped in other ways.

“As an independent league, we basically made our own rules, but now we strictly adhere to the Little League rules,” Clay said. “I think it has brought back the energy in the softball program and everyone has been excited with the early success that our first all-star team is having.”

The baseball and softball leagues both have their own boards, but Rad Massey serves as the president who resides over both leagues.

“I don’t think any of this could have happened without Rad being the middleman,” Clay said.

The girls softball program has four all-star teams, with the 7-8-year-old team already advancing to the state tournament that falls on Father’s Day weekend, while the other three programs will open up all-star play later this month.