No fewer than FOUR softball teams from Oviedo’s Babe Ruth program captured state championships this year
For many years, Oviedo Babe Ruth’s softball league has produced standout all-star teams, and in 2011, the 12-and-under all-stars captured the league’s first World Series title. This season, Oviedo Babe Ruth took dominance to the next level, with four of its all-star teams winning state titles and advancing to the 2016 Babe Ruth League World Series in Jensen Beach.
In addition to the 8-and-under, 10-and-under, 12-and-under, and 14-and-under teams winning district and state titles this summer, the league’s 6-and-under team was runner-up at the state tournament in Lake City.
“That’s pretty amazing for our girls and our league, and it says a lot about Oviedo Babe Ruth and our coaches and our families,” says Jaime Slavik, Oviedo Babe Ruth’s softball commissioner and mom to softball players Madison (10-U) and Haleigh (12-U). “These girls definitely have a heart for the game, and they’re always aspiring to get better.”
Oviedo Babe Ruth’s dominance at the state tournament did not go unnoticed.
“As a city, we dominated the state tournament, and that’s what we’re most proud of,” says Irene Jenson, who handles the league’s financial affairs and fundraising and is mom to Kendall (10-U). “Even the tournament director said, when he was announcing one of our winners, ‘I feel like I’ve been saying “Oviedo’s the winner” all day long!’”
The winning formula for Oviedo Babe Ruth softball has been in place for several years. According to Irene, the league is unique in the Central Florida area because of its travel teams – nicknamed The Blaze – that are put together during its recreation seasons. Those teams compete in high-level travel tournaments throughout the state during the fall and spring, so by the time all-star season arrives in June, the girls are ready.
The Blaze travel teams compete in one or two recreational games during the week, and then play between five and seven games in weekend tournaments in places like Clearwater, Sarasota, Port Orange, and Clermont. To make an all-star team, the coaches nominate top players on their recreational teams, and those girls have the option to try out for one of 12 spots on each all-star team.
It’s a huge commitment for both players and parents. “You’re basically selling your soul to the summer,” says Irene, laughing.
“We will get back from the World Series on a Thursday, and that following Saturday is recreation ball tryouts,” says incoming commissioner Leah Verne, who coached daughter Ella’s 8-U team along with husband Mick. “So there’s no break for this group of girls. But it’s all worth it.”
Another reason for Oviedo Babe Ruth’s softball success is that so many of the players stay in the league for several years and stick together as teammates. For example, Ella, now nine, is in her fourth year in the league, and six of her current teammates were also members of the 6-U team that won the 2014 state championship.
Four years ago, Oviedo Babe Ruth won the 6-U state title for the first time, and four of those girls – Kendall Jenson, Madison Slavik, Ava Gelm, and Annabella Musumeci – are still playing together as members of the 10-U all-star team.
Many of the girls also play other competitive sports and are high-achievers in the classroom, as well. “These girls have stuck together, year after year after year, together to this point,” Irene says. “They work together and have moved up together, and they’ve also been fortunate to have very experienced coaches.”
“These girls get along so well, on and off the field,” Leah adds. “We couldn’t ask for a better group of girls.”
In addition to working hard on the field, the girls worked hard to raise money for their tournament trips. They sent letters to individual businesses asking for contributions, hosted Spirit Nights at some local restaurants, held garage sales, and collected donations at various locations throughout the community.
“Our lives [were] consumed with fundraising and practices, and we are very appreciative of how generous our community and local businesses have been,” Leah says. “It’s all been super exciting. This is a very big accomplishment for these girls.”
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