By Kim Staudinger
After a nearly 50-year absence, fastpitch softball is returning to Havre.
Dana Seidel, president of the Havre Girls Softball Association, said Havre had fastpitch softball during the 1940s but switched to slowpitch early in the 1950s.
But now, fewer people are playing slowpitch so Havre is hoping a switch back to fastpitch will help draw interest.
With basketball and volleyball camps and tournaments in the summer, Seidel said, fewer players were willing to make the commitment to softball.
"The problem we see now is that it used to be the summer was for softball," she said. "But it's not all about softball anymore."
Fewer players means the competitiveness of summer softball has dropped.
"We just thought why not give it a shot," Seidel said. "It will be a lot more competitive now."
The HGSA has debated the switch for a few years. With other youth programs in the state making the move, she said, it was time for Havre to do the same.
Aside from the decreasing numbers of players and towns participating in the state slowpitch tournaments, Seidel said, another reason contributed to the desire to switch.
"On the bigger picture, we have other towns that have converted and have brought it into the school system," she said.
Havre High School is one of seven Class A schools that does not have softball as a part of school-sponsored athletic events. Seventeen do.
The switch to fastpitch will affect all levels of Havre youth softball, except for the T-ball group. The coaches for that group, which involves girls in first grade up to 9 years of age, will pitch underhand for the first two strikes, then using the tee to hit off of after that.
Every group above the 9 year olds will be required to pitch fastpitch. The older groups also will now be able to bunt and steal bases. Batters will be required to wear batting helmets, and catchers will be required to wear protective gear.
"This year will be interesting," Seidel said, noting the league is still in the planning process for some details. "This is a play-it-by-ear year. We're learning, too."
The schedule for the upcoming season will be similar to last year's, with team signups beginning Monday.
To help make the switch easier, a clinic is slated for April 13 from 1 to 4:30 p.m. The clinic will focus on all aspects of the game and is free to anyone interested in participating. Leo Barsanti, who is originally from Havre but lives in Billings, will be instructing at the clinic.
"He's really excited to come up and help us," Seidel said. "He's wanted to see the change for a while."
Seidel also encourages parents and coaches to attend the clinic to help their daughters with the change.
"It gives all involved a chance to try it out," she said.
For more information regarding the clinic or the switch, contact Seidel at 265-1062.