If you were in Stephenville City Park last weekend, you almost certainly ran across several ball games between girls fastpitch softball teams from all over Texas. The teams are all members of the Amateur Softball Association, or ASA.
According to the ASA, it is a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization based in Oklahoma City that was founded in 1933 and has evolved into the strongest softball organization in the country. The growth and development of the association led the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to name the ASA the National Governing Body of Softball, pursuant to the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.
The ASA has become one of the nation's largest and fastest growing sports organizations and now sanctions competition in every state through a network of 76 local associations. The group has over 200,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than four million.
Mitch Gutierrez and Blain Reatherford share coaching responsibilities for the 16-U “Team Chemistry” travel team. 16-U stands for “age sixteen and under,” by the way. Team Chemistry was here for the 18-U Class A State Tournament, Gutierrez says.
He explains, “This team started in 2008 and we were runners up in the 2012 Pony Fast Pitch Nationals held in Burleson. We started in Midland, but we’ve put this team together with talent from all over; we have girls from Breckenridge, Cisco, Brownwood, De Leon, Midland, San Marcos, Amarillo, Lubbock and Big Springs.”
Gutierrez and Reatherford have been coaching together for about three years according to Reatherford. “Over time, Mitch has been coaching over 25 years and I’ve been coaching for about 23 years, so we’ve got a little experience to offer these girls.”
He explains what the girls were competing for in Stephenville, “Every team that’s down here gets to go to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma to play in what’s called ASA/USA Southern Nationals.” Forty-eight of the top 16-U youth fast pitch squads will square off in that tournament.
“The top four seeds from this A-Team 18-and-under State Championship we’re having here get to compete in Montgomery, Alabama for the ASA/USA National Championship tournament in July. And if you win in Montgomery, you automatically have a bye to go to Nationals next year. So it’s a pretty big deal to everybody.”
This is both a fun and serious experience for the girls and it takes real dedication. Gutierrez said, “We play softball nine or ten months out of the year if you combine competitive ball and high school ball.”