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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Church softball finds popularity in Sikeston

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Brian Dowdy of the First Baptist Church softball team delivers a pitch.
SIKESTON - Once you get out of the car at the First Assembly of God's new softball field, the site of this year's YMCA men's softball games, it's easy to see that it is not your average men's league.

Visitors and players are greeted immediately by a sign that not only welcomes them, but also lists a few rules: no drinking, no cussing and no use of tobacco products among them.

Fans cheer on the uniformed players, ranging from age 18 to 68, as they field balls on the grass infield with flags flying high in the outfield behind them. Women and children, when not watching the game, gather around the concession stand and or enjoy the playground equipment.

This scene has become an average night for members of the 12 teams and their families who are involved in this summer's church league softball.

"The response has been great so far," said Chris Hodgkiss, YMCA program director. "We have been running the league for about seven years and each year more and more churches are fielding teams. First Assembly has given us a better field and the players and teams seem to also be getting better.

"I think the family environment at the new field has a lot to do with the increase in popularity," continued Hodgkiss. "Players can bring their families with them and the kids have somewhere to play. It is very family friendly."

Sikeston's First Assembly of God built the field two years ago with the hope of creating a more family friendly league. It is located across from the Bootheel Golf Club in Sikeston.

"We built the field in order to give something back to the community, and the response so far has been great," said Bryan Montgomery, men's ministry director at the First Assembly of God. "As Christians we wanted to provide a good, clean environment for families and friends to share fellowship with one another."

"First Assembly wanted to help and we needed a nicer field, so it was a win-

win situation for both of us," said Hodgkiss.

The field is not only used for the men's league, but has also been utilized in a number of fundraising events including tournaments for Mission Missouri and Teen Challenges.

Ever since the league switched fields, players say there has been a number of positive changes in the league.

"I've been playing softball since the league started and it has become much stronger and more competitive in the past couple of years," said Josh Mills, member of the Miner Baptist softball team. "Teams care if they win and almost always show up, and the sportsmanship has become even better. The players have all-around better attitudes this year."

Due to the popularity of the summer league, First Assembly of God will host a fall league for the second year.

"We want to keep everybody playing and everybody interested in the games through the non-summer months," said Montgomery. "And so far the support has been amazing. We already have 12 teams signed up for this fall, up from six last year."

The fall league will be played with better balls and more powerful bats in order to speed up the games, according to Montgomery.

Along with the new field, Hodgkiss credits the rise in popularity to the game of softball itself.

"Softball is a game that everyone can play," said Hodgkiss. "It is harder for a lot of people to play a sport like basketball competitively. With softball, there is a place for everybody, young and old."

The regular season for the summer league ended Monday and the playoffs begin tonight.

More information on the men's softball league can be found at the YMCA in Sikeston or at a local participating church.