Hayley Bonner (left) ande Jenny Manojlovic took part in the Shaw Youth Clinic last week as part of the 2011 Scotiabank Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship.

Softball: Learning from the best

Team Canada athletes mentor younger players.

Two best friends from Delta – Jenny Manojlovic and Hayley Bonner – say they will happily sacrifice their teenage social life, all in the name of softball.

At 13 years old, their eyes are already on the prize: a spot on Team Canada.

The girls met on the ball field four years ago. Hayley had some years of softball under her belt, while Jenny, a ballerina who traded in her tutu for a ball mitt, had never played before.

On Friday (July 8), both girls played catch with some of the country’s most decorated, female softball players as part of the Shaw Youth Clinic being held in conjunction with the 2011 Scotiabank Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship at Softball City.

Jenny and Hayley sat in a first base line dugout at one of the diamonds. Soon, the park would come alive with the sounds of cheers from the fans and pings from the metal bats during the tournament.

Scrawled on Hayley’s camp-issue shirt was a freshly inked autograph from Jill Russell.

Both girls admire Russell – a utility player for Team Canada – who helped lend a hand during the Friday clinic.Shaw Youth Clinic

“She (Russell) never quits; she keeps trying, even if something goes wrong,” said Jenny.

The girls also got a chance to work with a Team Canada player from their hometown: Paige Collings. The 21-year-old catcher from Delta can empathize with the young girls’ enthusiasm for the sport.

“I couldn’t really get enough of softball,” said Collings.

A product of Delta Heat Rep A fastpitch, the same organization that Jenny and Hayley currently play for, Collings revealed how her spare time growing up was spent playing softball.

“I put in a lot of extra hours,” she said. “My dad and I would go to the park, he would set up a screen, and I would hit buckets of balls.”

Her advice for the young Team Canada hopefuls? There is no substitute for working hard and having a good attitude.

Mark Smith, head coach of the senior women’s national team, said having his players mentor up-and-coming star softball players is “kind of like life going full circle. ”

“Someone came out at some poinShaw Youth Clinict in time and mentored our girls,” he said.

As for future Team Canada prospects at the youth clinic, Smith said they are too young to determine what their full potential will be.

“Certainly, there are a lot of girls here who are aspiring to be better softball players,” said Smith.

Two hours into the clinic and Hayley and Jenny have already acquired some new skills.

They have learned different ways to hit the ball – including the slap bunt – and practised the all-important double play.

August and September are the only months the girls take an official break from softball. Hayley plays year-round at an indoor facility in Langley.

Both girls are on the doorstep of Grade 8, and with only a taste of freedom from their parents, are making a commitment to softball.

“I’ve given up most of my social life,” said Jenny. “I barely get a chance to see my friends anymore.”

They won’t be lonely. The girls say they have found friends for life in the Delta Heat teammates.

reporter@surreyleader.com

Surrey North Delta Leader

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