Aitkin Youth Fastpitch ready to get back on fields

During play last summer, Abby Palm beats out the base hit with Natalie Steuven at first base in play at the 12U level of Aitkin Youth Fastpitch.

Aitkin Youth Fastpitch is back.

Starting Monday, the youth softball league in the Aitkin area was ready to start practices after delaying the start of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a dream come true for the people involved,” said organizer Austin Krohn. “It’s been two years in process. It’s just a great thing.”

Krohn said that the group will start the in-house portion of its league, with two teams each at 8U, 10U and 12U practicing. Businesses are sponsoring jerseys for the girls and practices will be twice a week.

Krohn said there is hope the teams will at least be allowed to eventually scrimmage, using the newly built fields – the result of fundraising and a matching grant from Major League Baseball – at Rippleside Elementary School.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Krohn said, for the 501C-3 non-profit organization.

“Aitkin, historically, has had a long and proud tradition of baseball,” Krohn said. “There hasn’t been an equivalent of a girls’ program.”

Krohn said that, as a result, the girls would then sign up to play Little League, but it wasn’t the same and few actually signed up.

“The girls’ only choice was to play baseball,” Krohn said. “We wanted to have an equivalent team for the girls.”

The first sign up of girls for youth fastpitch was 17 players.

Last year, more than 150 girls signed up for the first full season. There were 16 teams, ranging from pre-school to high-school aged.

In order to build the fields for girls to play, Krohn said a dedicated group of parents and supporters raised $25,000 – and then got that amount matched by MLB.

Now the organization has a pair of full youth fastpitch fields, plus can utilize the JV and varsity fields associated with the high school.

The youth fields have a tie to Aitkin Schools, “The Roost.”

The group has a board of directors of five members, and Krohn said there are literally hundreds of volunteers or supporters who have contributed either financially or with in-kind donations of goods or time.

“We couldn’t have even begun to do any of this without this being a community project,” Krohn said, adding that encouraging community involvement is part of AYS’s mission statement.

“Without that community support, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” he added.

Last year, there were at least three teams at every level. This year, there are only two teams at each level due to the pandemic.

“All the girls sign up, and then we split them up into teams,” Krohn said. The teams did not travel, but played in Aitkin.

Girls who wanted to play travel ball could sign up for additional play, with coaches stepping up to teach extra skills.

Krohn said they had a varsity travel team, as well as 14U, 12U, 10U and 8U travel teams during last summer’s league

At the moment, the 14U players and the varsity group will combine and practice together.

If interested in playing, email aitkinyouthfast pitch@gmail.com.

Krohn said signups and registration have technically closed, but will reopen if anyone wants to join later.

“We’re keeping open the ability to join late,” Krohn said.

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