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Fair Game: Aiding the growth of softball

As the fastest-growing sport in the NCAA, softball is also becoming one of the most popular youth sports in Colorado.

DENVER — On a field belonging to the boys of summer, for the first time ever, a bunch of girls gathered to play their game.

"The best way to improve is to compete and to have people competing," MSU Denver softball head coach Annie Van Wetzinga said. "If there's only a few people, the ceiling's going to be low."

As the fastest-growing sport in the NCAA, softball is also becoming one of the most popular youth sports in Colorado.

Because of that, Van Wetzinga is a big proponent of summer camps.

"When you have more and more young girls competing and playing and participating in softball, there's just a higher likelihood that the competition is going to go up and the ability level is going to go up and, what's more important, the opportunities are going to increase," she said. "If there's a demand for it, then there's going to be more opportunities created as well, which is really exciting."

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Also exciting? Learning some of the top players in the nation.

The camp brought in two players from USA Softball to teach skills and share their experiences.

"I think it's so important to give back to your community and to the youth of softball so they can learn and they can grow and our sport can keep getting better and better."

"If I was a camper, I would've loved that back in my day. If Lisa Fernandez was out here, I would be stoked! The fact that these young players get to have Savannah and Bailey out her working with them and interacting with them, it's unique and it's special and I know that they'll always remember it and I hope they take something from it."

Playing on the vast outfield of Coors Field also allowed the athletes to dream. What if their softball careers could take them to a big stage like this?

"Even just hearing them talk about some of the major league guys and they're huge fans and it's so cool to see and thinking about if softball had the same platform for girls to have these players on a stage this big, eventually that would be huge."

It's not that farfetched.

Sahvanna Jaquish plays professionally for Athletes Unlimited, a league newly formed in 2020. Her versatility shows girls that there's another option after college.

"Obviously, I still think that we have a long way to go, but Athletes Unlimited really treats us like professional athletes and we have a lot of fun just playing ball and making a living," Jaquish said.

A dream perhaps within swinging distance.

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