Jeannie Brinkley of the orange team takes a swing as pink team catcher Nancy McCrickard awaits the ball during a Bennett’s Creek Women’s Softball League game last week at John Yeates Middle School.
Jeannie Brinkley of the orange team takes a swing as pink team catcher Nancy McCrickard awaits the ball during a Bennett’s Creek Women’s Softball League game last week at John Yeates Middle School.

Unto the next generation

Published 10:45pm Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Local women enjoy adult softball league

The Bennett’s Creek Women’s Softball League is a gift that extends from one generation to another, and it exists to provide any women 18 and older, experienced or not, with the opportunity to play.

Last week, the league began its 29th season, this time with about 69 ladies distributed over five different teams. Most come from Suffolk, many from Portsmouth and a few from other nearby cities.

“It started out as a housewife’s league, and then it’s just grown,” league president and softball player Ashley Story said.

Nancy McCrickard, 57, is the only remaining player from the league’s inaugural season in 1984, and she explained the “housewife” label in her description of the league’s inception.

“I was coaching in (Bennett’s Creek) Little League, and that’s where it started with the Little League mothers,” she said. “A couple of them, they liked to play ball, and they didn’t have anywhere to play.”

“They just asked around the ball field who wanted to play, and we came up with five teams the first year,” McCrickard said.

The BCLL complex served as the league’s initial home.

Season schedules cater to that of a mother’s, as games are played in July and August, after the players’ children have finished spring Little League play and before the start of fall ball.

Another thing that makes the league unique is its board of directors. Effort is made to ensure that “our ladies in the league are the ones that get together and put it on and run it,” Story said.

The board dictates rules like the “must play” rule that guarantees each player at least three innings of playing time on both offense and defense. Consequently, the slaughter rule is eliminated, though games are frequently close, anyway.

“We want to make sure that the ladies get their money’s worth,” Story said.

The league is a non-profit organization, relying upon funds from registration fees, sponsorships and fund-raisers throughout the season.

Praising its virtues, softball player Jeannie Brinkley said that the league “is a great social outlet for these women.”

She cited the draft, which assigns players to a new team each year. Coaches rank returning players by ability and put them on different teams to be fair, mixing in any new players, as well. Camaraderie and the ability to work together with teammates, both new and old, becomes key.

Another appeal to the league and a motivation that has kept it going is family. Mothers and daughters are allowed to play on the same team.

McCrickard noted her 35-year-old daughter, Kelly Buley, has been her teammate for 18 years. Buley has only sat out when she was pregnant, which is the case this year.

“The original people hoped to keep (the league) together for their daughters, and they certainly did,” McCrickard said.

It has not been without its difficulties, however, including finding a new home when the BCLL and BCWSL boards encountered several differences of opinion.

The league now plays at John Yeates Middle School where it shares a complex with the Nansemond River Pony Baseball League and Pop Warner-sanctioned Bennett’s Creek Warriors.

This meant Story could continue to play with Brinkley, her mother; they have played together for nine years.

“We enjoy it,” Story said. “It’s our one thing that we do on a regular basis is play ball out there.”

Current participants hope to attract more than just family members, however. The median age of the league is between 35-40.

“We’d like to let some of the younger girls coming out of high school know that this league is available to them,” Brinkley said.

The season has started with games on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, but registration is still open because work conflicts, injuries and life issues can mean that spots become available.

“We’ve had as many eight to nine teams in this league at a time,” Brinkley said. “So, we’d really like to get back to that point.”

To register, visit http://bcwsl.com/registration_form1.php.

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