That old saying “you’ve come along way, baby,” certainly holds true for Fastpitch Northwest.
When Fastpitch Northwest held its first College Exposure Softball Tournament in 2010, 90 players participated in Prospect Evaluation Camps in three states and 50 players competed in the three-day event held at Borst Park in Centralia.
In 2016, more than 350 players from six states participated in Prospect Evaluation Camps and more than 220 participated in the College Exposure event at Borst.
But it wasn’t just the numbers that impressed Fastpitch NW director Ken Olson. It was the level of play that stood out at both the PECs and the tournament.
“In 2016, Tom (Mauldin, assistant Fastpitch NW director) and I had a chance to evaluate over 350 kids at our PEC’s last summer and during our trip to Hawaii last winter and there were some really fantastic players,” said Olson.
And the level of talent at the tournament continues to rise each year.
“I was very happy with the talent level this year, especially from an offensive standpoint. We had many balls leave the yard this year,” said Olson. “I also felt that the 28 players who travelled from Hawaii this past summer opened up some eyes with their defensive fundamentals. Defensively, the coaches over there, really have a handle on teaching fundamentals. Every year we have over 80 percent of the college coaches attend our event and that was the case this summer as well.”
Noting there is always room for improvements, Olson said he was pleased with where Fastpitch Northwest is today and has no major changes in the works.
“We seem to have a system that is working for the players and the basic philosophy works for the college coaches. I don’t see any real changes to how we operate our program,” said Olson. “Of course I would like to reach more travel teams and have them take a look at our program for their players. It all starts with coaches, as they have to recommend their players to us before the players have a chance to play in front of college coaches”
Olson added, “In talking to parents, they would sure like to keep their daughter closer to home when they go to college and Fastpitch NW can provide that avenue.”
“To have the opportunity to host close to 400 players each year at our camps, is really exciting,” continued Olson. “And then to have so much support from our NW college coaches does show us that we are headed in the right direction.”
After spending all three days at our tournament, one Division coach told Olson he came away with 14 players that he had on his ‘players to watch’ list.
“That tells me, we are getting the right players at our event,” said Olson.
The director said the thing that stand outs the most to him is the growing support of college coaches.
“There is one that stands out to me and that is the support of the college coaches over the years,” said Olson. “If one takes a look at the rosters at the colleges in the NW, you will see any number of Fastpitch NW kids.”
In addition, Olson pointed out the efforts of Mike Mayben at North Medford High School, “that we were able to bring our camp back to southern Oregon this year and that was a real highlight for me. There are some really great softball players that come out of that area and to have them have a chance at playing in front of our college coaches was awesome.”
Another highlight has been the growth of the Fastpitch Northwest Scholarship program.
“We started out with one $500 award given by my wife and I in 2010, and since that first year our company has awarded $3,000 annually to our senior graduates.”
That adds up to over 40 scholarships and more than $20,000.
Another old adage rings true. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”