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PYAA softball’s opening day a success

The cheers of excited parents and the metallic clang of metal bats hitting softballs filled Friendship Park Saturday as the Picayune Youth Athletic Association held its softball opening day.

Games started in the morning and went into the afternoon as athletes of various ages competed against one another in recreational softball games.

Clifton Cuevas, coach of the 8U Cobras, said the focus for players heading into the first game of the season was getting athletes comfortable with their swing.

The 8U athletes compete in coach pitch games, meaning their team’s coach tosses an underhand pitch to the young hitter who then has to make contact.

Learning that skill and getting it down takes some time.

“Our practices are primarily 75 percent hitting and we go with the girls in batting cages over and over again because if you can’t hit you can’t do anything,” Cuevas said.

PYAA Softball President Jeremy Guidry said the opening day went without a hitch as athletes, parents and coaches were able to get back outside and enjoy the sport of softball.

Cuevas said playing again gives his daughter and other athletes the chance to spend time with like-minded individuals in a fun, active way.

“This softball has changed life because we go to practices and my daughter is thrilled to go and be with her friends. It’s a different crowd of kids than her friends from school. These kids on these teams have a common interest in that they love to play softball,” Cuevas said.

The games also serve as an escape for everyone involved.

The past year has seen the world flipped on its head due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when it’s game time all of those negatives are forgotten.

“It’s almost like life is back to what it was pre-COVID. They’re happy and running around. It felt like old times Saturday and for the girls from their perspective, she just wants to play with her friends. You forget when you’re on that field there’s anything abnormal going on in life,” Cuevas said.

Guidry said he makes sure his coaches understand that while winning is a plus, there’s more the players need to learn.

There are a lot of details the youngsters have to understand regarding the game of softball, but those aren’t the most important lessons.

“It’s just an avenue of teaching fundamentals, teaching how to be a good sport, how to be a good friend and how to be supportive. There are a lot of life lessons that we teach on the field. It’s not just about softball. It’s about teaching them to be good people,” Guidry said.

While there’s a lot to learn regarding the sport, Cuevas makes sure there are other long-term benefits the athletes can take advantage of by playing softball.

“I would say by the end of the season I would hope they’ve learned how to play softball better and how to improve their skillsets, but most of all are more self-confident because at the end of day that’s what matters. I try to instill that in their hearts, not just on the field but in life,” Cuevas said.