Grace Matthews has never needed to question the camaraderie or the conviction of her softball teammates at the Edward O’Malley Athletic Association, 144 Moore St. Well aware of their blessed natures as friends and fiery competitors, the 12-year-old leader expects a heavenly experience when the Angels head to Orlando as Little League Softball World Series participants.
“We love hanging out and we love coming together to improve,” the first baseman and pitcher said during a practice session at the squad’s Pennsport-based field. “When we’re in Florida, I think those feelings will become even stronger.”
The resident of the 200 block of Wolf Street and her 14 peers will leave for the Sunshine State tomorrow and Saturday, the latter featuring a parade involving clubs from numerous age groups, with pool play beginning Sunday. They became eligible through a second-place finish in last fall’s United States Specialty Sports Association qualifying tournament, with the acquisition of $25,000 from such benefactors as Dougherty Electric, 1st District Councilman Mark Squilla and various Mummers clubs securing their involvement.
“These are great girls who plan to make their neighborhoods proud,” coach Jack Trepts said. “They treat one another like equals because they have the same goals — having fun and winning games.”
The 100-block-of-Pierce-Street inhabitant has helmed their maturation for three seasons and eagerly awaits witnessing how their intense travel ball identity will assist them in their slate against unfamiliar foes.
“This is our chance to excel,” his daughter, Amelia, said of the excursion, which will have them contest five pool-play games by Wednesday, with double-elimination duels commencing a week from today. “I want to bring home a trophy, but I also want to gain more confidence in myself.”
Through the intervention of her contemporaries and their elders, the second baseman figures to have a divine time as the Angels and 44 more 12-and-under representatives continue their competitively captivating summer.
“It’s a big jump for us, and it’s going to be a big challenge,” third baseman Nina Rowan said during a break from throwing bullets from the hot corner. “I’ve always dreamed about having the chance to play the best teams, and we’re so close to doing so. Mentally, we’re really prepared.”
The denizen of the 1200 block of Johnston Street added that though so many squads will be hoping for harmonious results, the youths cannot obsess over wishes to win every game or any miscues that might occur. Their bond will bear more fruit if they sustain their serene demeanor, with victories being a boon but not the best means to mark the journey as a jubilant jaunt.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Jack Trepts said. “I would find it amazing and absolutely unforgettable if we won the championship. What’s most important is to keep them playing the game the right way and remaining accountable to one another. I expect them to do just that, so before we even go, I’m already considering this a great opportunity.”
With ample representation in spring and fall tournaments and membership in the Philadelphia Girls Softball Association, the Angels rejoice each time they can display their diligence, a gift that commissioner Shawn Brown cited as a chief element of the decision to raise the funds for their festive Florida foray.
“My whole life is devoted to kids,” the teacher and occupant of the 1900 block of South Second Street said of reveling in their fortune. “Thanks to the generosity of so many people, these girls are going to be able to take so many memories from their time there, and seeing the smiles on their faces will fill me with the most pride.”
Starting their outreach in February, the youngsters and their backers brought in bucks through beef and beers, basket of cheer ticket purchases, advertisement books with sponsors and shirt sales. Brown lauded the residential regard that they have received, tabbing the EOM board of directors as “a huge catalyst for giving the girls such an awesome experience.”
“We’re all looking forward to playing our best,” his delighted descendant, Abigail, said of a desire to show Pennsport pride to the nation. “I’m excited about everything, especially the pin trading that we’ll do with other teams.”
The left fielder confided that team unity will help everyone to maximize the moments spent competing and conversing. Competent and confident, much like the roster members of EOM’s two other travel teams and the in-house program constituents, they have set personal goals but know that intensifying their worth to one another will resound more richly than holding a trophy or a pin.
“We’ve gotten better and worked hard,” shortstop Neilee Koslosky, of the 200 block of Mifflin Street, said. “It’s shocking to realize that we’re going to the World Series because of that.”
“I’m amazed at our progress, too,” right fielder Kellynn O’Donnell, of the 200 block of Ritner Street, added. “No matter the score of any game, we’ve stayed together.”
Along with these six ecstatic athletes, the Angels will flock to Florida with Emma and Hannah Stuhl, Michaela McElwee, Madison Mini, Gianna Perez, Ryleigh Lord, Evanrose Smith, Kamryn Koslosky and Kylee Brasky, with the final contributor looking for glory when atop the pitcher’s mound.
“We have a chance to win some games,” the Third-and-McKean-streets dweller said. “Mostly, though, we know it’s about the experience and being with one another. Years from now, everyone is going to remember that first.”
Contact Managing Editor Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.