Watch out, world, here comes the Redmond Junior all-star softball team.
On Sunday, the District 9 champions will take on the role of host team at the 20th Little League Junior Softball World Series at Everest Park in Kirkland. The girls will welcome squads from the United States (Southeast, Southwest, West, East and Central), Asia Pacific, Canada, Latin America and Europe/Africa into the softball celebration.
“The key for Redmond to succeed in the World Series is to have good trustworthy backup behind the pitcher and play at your best abilities, give 100 percent of your effort and most of all to have a positive attitude,” said player Natalia Farago.
The teams — consisting of players ages 13 to 14 (with some 15 year olds) — are split into two pools, and the first game will take place at 9 a.m. Sunday between Latin America and the West. Redmond will play its first game against Asia Pacific at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. The opening ceremonies will be held at noon on Sunday.
The tourney will run through Aug. 4 with the ESPN2-televised championship game set for 1 p.m. Each team will play four pool games and the top four squads from each pool will advance to the next portion of the tourney. For the full game schedule, visit littleleaguejsws.org.
Admission and parking are free, and thousands of people are expected to attend the tournament at Everest (500 8th St. South), which has four fields — two for games at the tourney and two for practices during the event.
REDMOND’S ‘WONDER WOMEN’
Redmond sported a 13-0 record during the regular season and defeated Eastlake, 6-3, in seven innings on June 23 to snag the district title and qualify for the World Series.
“The best part about playing with this team is that everyone gets along and everyone believes in each other and we get to represent Redmond and Washington state by playing softball and have fun,” Farago said.
The games have been intense and Farago has learned invaluable lessons along the way.
“In order to win, you have to believe in your abilities and everyone else’s and play at your abilities. Everyone will make a mistake, but it’s the way you come back from it,” she said.
Along with training for the last month, manager Cheryl Johnson said the team bonded by walking in the Redmond Derby Days parade, having team and family barbecues and gathering to watch “Wonder Woman” at Movies at Marymoor.
The district championship game drew a big crowd of Redmond supporters, and Johnson hopes fans will come out to Everest Park as well.
“It’s not just a team here, it’s a whole community that comes out and supports Little League, which is really neat,” said Johnson, noting that she’s thrilled to be back at Everest. During her first time managing, her daughter’s 10-year-old Redmond all-star team took second at districts on one of the park’s fields.
Left fielder Isabella Stewart said the girls had a special time watching “Wonder Woman.” As the movie beamed on the big screen, Stewart told her teammates, “Yeah, we got this. We’re gonna win.”
She added about the inspirational flick and how it relates to softball: “Women have lots of power. So it’s kind of cool that women have a sport that they can do as well.”
Stewart feels Redmond is strong all around the diamond and the players communicate, have tons of energy and let the positivity flow. They’re like a family — connecting and inspiring each other.
Redmond right fielder Hannah Price remembers watching Junior World Series games from the sidelines.
“I was standing with my glove ready to catch the ball — ‘I wanna be out there so bad!,’” she said with a smile.
On Sunday, Price will be in the spotlight with her teammates at Everest. It felt unreal to qualify for the World Series at first, but it’s nearly right in front of their eyes.
“As we get closer, we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re gonna play!’ It’s crazy and it’s an unbelievable feeling that’s not really describable, but super happy about it,” said Price, noting that team morale is at a premium and they’re ready to play hard and support each other the whole way.
Johnson said that Grace Haegele, who has pitched all the games, is the heart and soul of the team, providing leadership and throwing strikes.
“She’s the kid that will pick everybody up no matter what’s happening, so I think what happens is then she has support of that team behind her,” said Johnson, adding that Karli Kostoff at shortstop and Sundis Cole and second base possess strong gloves and communication skills in leading the defense.
On the hitting front, Ella Claus blasted a homer over the fence in the district title game to go along with some of her teammates’ bunts, singles and walks in key situations.
Claus’ dinger still sticks in Johnson’s mind: “I think that really brought that fire to the team and just really brought us all around.”
Redmond will only graduate two players from the junior ranks, so the future looks bright, Johnson said. The past and the present were and are special places to be for Johnson, too, since she’s gotten to coach them from age 10 until now.
“It’s fun that we got to coach, be with them and see them grow up. It’s really exciting — I feel like we’re taking the whole ride with them as well,” said Johnson, who describes playing in the World Series as “beyond amazing.”
John Chadwick, tournament director for his 20th year, said the Junior World Series is a special time for the players as they conclude their junior careers before rising to the high school ranks and beyond.
“You couldn’t ask for a more fitting thing to participate in the World Series. You gotta be fired up about that,” he said.
COVERING ALL THE BASES
Last year’s tournament — in which Kirkland took second — was marred by a social media incident in which Little League International disqualified the Southeast (Mechanicsville, Virginia) from playing in the title game for violating the Little League policy regarding unsportsmanlike conduct for inappropriate use of social media.
The Reporter discovered the Southeast’s blurred-out Snapchat photo online last year that featured six players flipping off the camera with a caption that read, “Watch out host.” (Kirkland was the host team.) The photo was posted before the semifinal between Kirkland and the Southeast — in which Mechanicsville won, 1-0 — and was discovered following the game. The photo was removed and the Southeast players apologized to Kirkland’s squad that night. The story made national headlines and was discussed on copious talk shows.
A Junior League Softball World Series tournament staff member announced on the morning of the final that Kirkland was to play in that game instead of the third-place matchup. Central’s Poland, Ohio, beat Kirkland, 7-1, in the final.
“(Little League International) has taken steps to make the managers aware of the consequences of social media,” Chadwick said of this year’s tourney. He added that it was an “unfortunate incident” that took place in 2017 and that “people have to learn from their mistakes that there are consequences.”
Chadwick said that Little League International has shared a video with managers regarding social media usage and has asked them to provide guidance to their players.