25 years of making home runs and history

Pike County Women’s Softball League celebrates anniversary

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  • Photo, Lori Strelecki Pike County WomenþÄôs Softball League.

“[25] is a landmark year. In Pike County, they celebrate the anniversary of anything, so we thought ‘why not?’ Let’s hope for 25 more.”
— Lori Strelecki

After 50 signatures, three strikes and 25 years, the Pike County Women’s Softball League that was once solely a local woman’s dream is now celebrating a monumental anniversary.

This past Saturday, team members of past and present gathered at the municipal ball fields on Wilson Hill Road, Dingmans Ferry, in honor of 25 years since the team’s formation.

A barbeque, DJ and games provided an outlet for league members to celebrate the end of the season as well as their own accomplishments and revered history.

Teams formation
When founder Diane Locke moved to the area in 1989, she said she was surprised to find an absence of women’s softball teams in the area, a departure from the multiple teams throughout her original home in New Jersey.

Her only option was to join a team in Sparta, but after a year she decided the 50-minute commute to practice was too much.

Determined to make that change, she contacted Camp Speers-Eljabar YMCA in Dingmans Ferry to ask for assistance in building a team.

She was told she would be obliged if she could gather 50 signatures of interested women in a matter of one week.

“I thought, ‘Okay, this is not going to be easy,’ being that I really didn’t know too many people except for my neighbors,” Locke said. “I knew two of my neighbors who wanted to play, so I called them... and I said ‘Before we hang up, give me one person that you know who wants to play.’”

Locke said she would make the same request with every phone call, and she was always obliged — some women, despite not even knowing her, were giving her two or three contacts of potential future teammates.

Within a week’s time, she had 90 signatures.

As a result, the YMCA agreed to provide playing fields for two years before the league — consisting of seven to eight teams at the time — became established with the township, Locke said.

Hailing from the tri-state area

Today up to 75 women from Milford to Greeley trek to Dingmans Ferry each summer to participate in one of the current five teams in the league.

With a lack of softball teams open to any interested women in the tri-state area, the team consists of women ranging from 18 to 75 and hailing from Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

“Everybody knows each other,” Lori Strelecki said. “There’s rivalries, which makes for good competition.”

Strelecki said she has participated in the team for an estimated 10 years, and played recreational softball all of her life growing up in New Jersey where there were several industrial teams.

“It was a change being up here where softball fields are few and far between, let alone teams,” she said.

Luckily, Locke had paved the way for her and others to participate several years prior.

The teams meet for about 15 games during season, which lasts from June to early August, playing at the municipal ball fields in Dingmans Ferry. The season culminates in a week of double elimination playoffs to crown the league championship, Strelecki said.

Having fun

This year, right in time for the anniversary, the team manned by its very founder took home the League Championship trophy.

While competition thrives to win the championship each year, Locke said the main goal is to have fun — something that for a while after its founding, the league started to forget, with women placing too much emphasis and competitive spirit on winning.

“Let’s face it, the object of every game is to win, so you want that competition to a point, but not to where that’s all it’s about,” Locke said. “The last few years, I’ve noticed every team to me is about having fun so it’s nice to see that again.”

Aside from having fun and participating in healthy competition, a large purpose of the league is to provide an outlet for people who have a lack of playing options once graduating high school, Locke said.

“I started this league yes, because I love softball and I love to play, but I also looked at it as when these girls got out of school, if they didn’t play college ball, they were done. They had nowhere to go,” she said.

Which is why when it was brought up during a meeting that the league should raise the age limit to 21, its founder vehemently refused.

While her own daughters were lucky enough to carry their mother’s passion for the game into college, where they themselves attended on softball scholarships, Locke said she recognizes that is not an option for every player.

“There are girls who don’t have that. When they get out, there’s really not all that much to do,” she said. “After graduating, if they wanted to play ball, they played ball. So it stayed 18. I will fight that to the end.”

It is the passion, spirit and leadership that Locke displays when leading the league that made her teammates want to honor her with a plaque that was presented during the anniversary celebration.

“[25] is a landmark year,” Strelecki said. “In Pike County, they celebrate the anniversary of anything, so we thought ‘why not?’ Let’s hope for 25 more.”

While she said she is unsure if she herself will still be playing a quarter of a century down the road, Strelecki said the possibility is open.

“I’m honored to play in this league,” Strelecki said. “It’s a great bunch of women, and there’s a lot of talent. It’s nice to see the same familiar faces each year.”

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