Bellingham Bash gives girls a chance to keep playing softball

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 17, 2013 

Avenues for girls to play softball in Bellingham were scarce.

While efforts by the Bellingham Boys and Girls Club mediated the lack of opportunities, once girls reached the age of 12, teams didn't exist for them. Any passion for the sport would be abandoned for something else, something available, leaving a void that needed to be filled.

A vacancy the Bellingham Bash and its founders looked to do away with.

"The goal of the Bash when we first started was to get softball recognized in Whatcom County," Ryan Wilson recalled when the idea of creating the Bash was first broached five years ago.

As the coach of the very first team, Wilson and the other members of the board wanted to create a pipeline of softball players for local high schools that didn't have that luxury.

"At the time, the local high school programs were bringing great athletes in to play, but some of them had never even played softball before," Wilson said. "Our goal was to get interest in the sport, teach them about the sport so when the high school coaches got them, they would have some background with the game."

In its infancy, the program could only field one team with a total of 10 or 11 players. Now, Wilson and the Bellingham Bash have a program that boasts five teams in all, one for girls 10 and under, three for girls 12 and under and one for girls 14 and under, and its enrollment is between 53 and 55 players.

As for the journey getting here, pride in what has been accomplished boasts from Wilson's voices with ease.

This was always the goal, he said, to give girls an opportunity they didn't have before.

And for some, like 12-year-old Lauren Dodge, the chance to play softball was a return to normal, one she desperately needed following her family's move from California to Washington when she was 10.

"There was a good six months in between where we moved and then we found the Bash," Dodge said in a phone interview. "I was really excited to get started again. I was able to get back into the game."

Saved with the Bash were her dreams of playing softball collegiately, even if the 12-year-old shortstop and catcher wasn't quite sure why the dirt on the softball fields was so dark here in Bellingham.

She had never played on anything so dampened by rain.

"I did ask that question," she said. "The dirt is a lot different down (in California). It's harder and lighter."

Although fear crept into her head during her first practice, fear that accompanies being new and uncertain, she quickly found a home with girls who had an equally common love for softball.

"The entire team was really welcoming," Dodge said. "It was really great to have that. Then I started spending time with my teammates individually ... now I just become really close to each and every one of (them)."

For a girl looking for something to hold on to, something to make things feel normal, finding softball was a haven, especially for her mother.

"I could tell by the look on her face, that 'Oh yeah, I'm back,'" Jennifer Dodge said in a phone interview of her daughters first practice with the Bash. "It was pretty fun to watch."

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