Ulster Fillies take it inside for the winter

Action from a 2015 Fillies-Capital District Fusion matchup. (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

While most high school softball players in the area are in the midst of trying to figure out how to get on the diamond when it’s buried under over a foot of snow, members of the Ulster Fillies’ travel team are already in midseason form. Or maybe between-season form.

“It’s not quite year round,” said Rick Spriggs, the Fillies’ tournament director and coach of the 16-under showcase team. “We let them go for high school seasons. Our winter practices typically run from mid-December through the end of February when it coincides with the high school season. We wouldn’t want anybody to get injured at a travel practice and jeopardize their high school season. This winter we’ve been basically based out of Ulster County Community College because I’m the coach out there and it’s a nice setup for us.”

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Most of the Fillies teams — including the 18-U, 16-U, 14-U and 12-U squads — have spent the winter practicing twice a week and playing in occasional indoor tournaments in places like the dome at the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury. The 16-U showcase team played three tournaments there during the first two months of 2017, falling in the title game during a mid-January round and bowing in the semifinals of a tournament in late February. The younger 16-U Fillies, coached by Stacey Donald, played a tournament at SUNY Plattsburgh in early January, and closed out the month by winning the Fastpitch Nation Midnight Madness tournament in Bloomfield, Conn.

For the showcase team, winter is a chance to hone their skills and prepare off-field for college. “They’re juniors in high school and they’re looking for college homes,” said Spriggs. “We’ve been busy writing letters to different colleges they’re interested in as their academic reports start to come together. During the fall we play a lot of 18-under higher level college showcase tournaments, and even though we’re 16-under we play 18-under teams in those events. A lot of college coaches in the fall. In the wintertime not so much, but the contacts have already been made from fall; they have their own schedules and teams to prepare for their season, so it’s more difficult for them to get out. Mostly it’s just [players] compiling SAT scores now and making sure they qualify academically for the schools they’re interested in. Academics and character rate highly. [Coaches] know if [players] are playing on a team like mine that they’re probably pretty good softball players. But academics and character certainly rate just as importantly. Too many people think, ‘Hey, my daughter’s a great softball player, she’s going to go to a D-1 school, and it doesn’t work that way. Not even close.”

The 16-U showcase team includes five players from the Kingston High varsity team, where they’re coached by Spriggs’ assistant coach Trishann Hayes. The team also includes three players from Saugerties High; one from Rondout; and two from Ichabod Crane, which won the stare Class B title in 2015. Spriggs isn’t worried about his team’s conditioning or game preparedness between the end of the indoor travel season and the beginni ng of the summer slate, which is set to start with the Tri-State Angels Tournament in Matamoras, Pa. in early June.

“They’re ready to go, and they know they can come see me if they want to get in some hitting,” Spriggs said.

This season will be the first of the annual RB23 Rebecca Brownstone Award, which will be given to two current Fillies players who are planning to play softball in college. The award will be given to players who excel in academics, and show strength of character, sportsmanship, charity and family.

Brownstone, who passed away in 2015 after battling cancer, was a member of the inaugural Fillies’ roster in 1996. The 20th anniversary home tournament was played in Brownstone’s memory last season, with family and former teammates traveling to Cantine Field in Saugerties to be part of the celebration of her life.

“We had a big tent set up for the Brownstone family,” said Spriggs. “They came and had dinner, and then a lot of them hung around for the weekend to see what we’ve kind of grown into. And at the opening ceremonies, we as an organization presented a check to the Brownstones for the charity of their choice. After a little bit of time went by they wrote us a nice letter back and said they’d rather the money go into a scholarship-type fund.”

For more information on the Ulster Fillies, including tryout information and schedules, visit: www.ulsterfillies.com

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