To think that some young girls have never picked up a bat and hit a softball makes one county high school student sad. It's for that reason that she is holding a softball clinic as part of her senior project.
"It's sad if they've never played softball," said 17-year-old Ashton Leogrande, a senior at Harlem High School. "We'll send out flyers and talk to the principals at Harlem Middle School and Columbia Middle School and ask them to announce it to their students. My plans are to teach basic defensive and offensive drills and maybe play a few games."
Ashton came up with the idea of the clinic after she realized that a lot of young girls have never experienced the game.
"I've been playing softball since I was in fifth grade, and when I started thinking about my senior project, it seemed like a good thing to do it on," said Ashton, the daughter of Frank and Baronda Leogrande, of Harlem.
"Learning to coach softball gives you a completely different perspective of the game, and it has made me have a greater respect for my coaches and helped me learned to play better."
"I can't think of a better way to spend a morning or afternoon than learning about softball from a great teacher," said Melissa Chase, Ashton's softball coach at Harlem High who also is serving as her senior project mentor. "She has patience and in my opinion is going to make a great teacher when she is finished with college. The young girls need someone to teach them the proper ways to play softball, but they also need someone who can be a positive role model or example."
Chase said she hopes Ashton can be the positive role model for some of the girls she instructs, just as she had when she was growing up.
"I also trust Ashton in teaching the girls the game and possibly inspiring them to want to continue to play the sport," she said. "Maybe some of the girls who come to this clinic will eventually make it to the high school varsity level with a love of the game and some fundamentals to go along with it."
The date of the clinic hasn't been determined, but Ashton hopes to get corporate sponsorship to furnish water bottles or T-shirts for participants. She also hopes to raise money for Walton Rehabilitation Hospital's stroke patients.
"My grandmother suffered a stroke 12 years ago," she said. "I've been through that, and I know what it's like. I don't think you can ever fully recover from something like that, but my grandmother is doing good."
Ashton has played softball for the past seven years - first with the Columbia County Recreation Department and now on her high school team - and hopes to inspire others to love the game.
"If they've never played before, this is a great chance for them to come out and learn about the game," said the Beta Club and National Honor Society member.
Ashton, who also is on the school's soccer team and is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, plans to attend Augusta State University next year.
"I want to play softball there," she said. "And I hope to become a teacher."
"She is determined to be successful and has a good head on her shoulders," Chase said. "She has a great set of parents who have taught her responsibility, among other things. She is dependable and mature and I have no doubt in my mind she will be successful in life, not just in running this softball clinic."
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