By Tom Mauldin - June 21, 2020
Plan A was a normal high school season and the start of Fastpitch Northwest’s Prospect Evaluation Camps in early June.
Plan B was a shortened high school season and the start of PECs in early June.
Plan C was dealing with no spring softball and a delayed start of PECs sometime in June.
But the Coronavirus pandemic has forced the Fastpitch Northwest team to change plans and reschedule about as often as a fly ball goes up and comes down. Plans A, B and C were cancelled due to safety and health precautions.
Well here it is — Plan D. And despite no prep seasons and a delayed start to evaluation camps, optimism and excitement are high for prospective collegiate players and evaluators alike.
Fastpitch NW is kicking off the PEC season on Tuesday at Borst Park in Centralia (WA).
“We’re very excited about kicking off our camp schedule this week,” said Fastpitch Northwest director Mike Brooks. “And from the response we are getting from the players it appears the girls can’t wait to get back on the field. More registrations are coming in every day.”
Brooks and his assistants will conduct the Washington PECs. A second PEC is planned for Centralia on July 13, followed by Auburn on July 14 and Yakima on July 15.
College of Idaho head coach Al Mendiola heads up the Idaho PECs and Eastern Oregon University head coach Nicole Christian heads up the Oregon PECs.
Like all PECs, the Centralia camp will test prospects on their softball abilities. The day-long evaluation will include SPARQ and NFCA Comparative testings and evaluation of a players’ throwing, hitting, fielding, running, catching and pitching abilities.
SPARQ stands for SPEED. POWER AGILITY. REACTION and QUICKNESS. Much of the testing is done on grass as is the national requirement. The testing includes 20-yard sprint (same distance as home to first), 20-yard agility run, standing long jump and power ball throw.
During the course of the day athletes will also participate in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s Comparative Testing – which includes home to first and home to home running times, infield and outfield overhand throw, pitching (radar for all pitches), catcher pop time and exit speed of the ball coming off the bat.
The goal of every prospective player is to show well at a PEC and land an invitation to Fastpitch Northwest’s College Exposure Tournament to be played at Borst Park in early August. The key words there are “College Exposure.”
Remember that date — first week of August. All collegiate affiliations (NCAA, NAIA, NWAC, etc.) have put a moratorium on college coaches recruiting through the end of July.
That said, Fastpitch Northwest’s PEC season is more important than any year preceding in the 11-year history of the organization.
Other locations throughout the Northwest will host PECs, beginning in July with Pocatello (ID) on July 6. Oregon PECs begin July 20 in Medford.
“I’m excited to see players who are wanting to compete at the next level,” said Christian. We have gone through so many changes with the COVID virus and a lot of Seniors and under classmen missed out on showing off their talent. I’m excited to be working with Al and Mike on trying to bring back the number of athletes who represent Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
Though the pandemic has changed the world, Brooks and staff are maintaining close contact with health and state officials in the Northwest and will proceed accordingly. They have contingency plans in place if necessary.
“We’re still keeping our fingers crossed for our remaining Washington camps,” said Brooks. “Yakima County is still in phase 1, so we have Rotary Park in Ellensburg set up for July 15 just in case. Auburn might also be in question as King County may not be opened up by July 14th, but we do have Centralia ready to go again on July 13th.”
Washington has counties in three levels of “opening” phases and that has caused Brooks to develop a Plan E. He’ll do a Plan F, if necessary.
“I was nervous about our PEC this coming Tuesday in Centralia, but Lewis County was approved for phase 3 just this morning,” said Brooks. “Our three Idaho camps are in great shape and our four in Oregon should be good to go later in July.”
Brooks added the organization’s recent video service has received a popular response.
“We’re also getting a very good response to our new recruiting video service,” said Brooks. “All of the participants will be video’d during the PEC's and we will make the videos available for posting to our FPNW Player Profile pages. Details of the recruiting video program are posted on our web site.”