Atlanta Braves host summer softball clinic in LaGrange
Published 8:15 am Thursday, June 29, 2023
The Braves are in LaGrange.
The professional baseball team, The Atlanta Braves, hosted one of its 24 one-day softball clinics right here in LaGrange. Troup County responded as it was the fastest filling summer camp for the Troup County Parks and Rec Department as well as the biggest camp on the Braves softball clinic calendar.
“LaGrange was actually our top selling clinic this year,” said Janie Webb, coordinator for Braves’ Growing the Game – Softball program. “Normally we have 60-70 kids, but have had over 100 sign up here.”
The camp was full back in March, but the clinic added some more roster spots and an additional field at Shuford to get as many young girls out as possible.
Instructors came from far and wide to help some local girls learn about the game. Schools such as the University of Tennessee and Clemson University were represented, but it was not just Division 1 teams that had a presence, the instructors came from NAIA, Division III and Division II as well. This allowed girls to get the full gambit of information from softball players across the college landscape rather than just a select few division I women.
“The girls can ask about all levels of being a college athlete,” Webb said. “We contract out and have girls from all over the southeast helping us out at these clinics.”
The mission for these softball clinics is pretty simple: to spread the game into rural areas in Braves Country.
“These clinics are all about getting out into the Braves Country community and getting kids further outside the city of Atlanta involved in the game,” Webb said. “I have learned that softball is a blue collar sport and this is a big opportunity to host something like this in a town like LaGrange.
“I grew up playing softball in Habersham County in northeast Georgia and it’s a lot like LaGrange and these our the types of communities we are trying to grow the game in.”
In just the second year this program has existed, the clinic has grown from 18 camps to 24. One of the main reasons that LaGrange was one of the six added destinations was Lauren Kuerzi, the head softball coach at Long Cane, who pushed hard for the Braves to come down to LaGrange to hold a clinic.
“I knew this was something that would get the community excited about softball,” Kuerzi said. “People in LaGrange love the Braves and this would give the kids a good chance to hear from coaches that aren’t the normal ones they are interacting with.”
Softball in this area is near and dear to Keurzi’s heart. She played at Troup High before enjoying a college career at Georgia Southwestern. She is now back in Troup County spreading her love of softball.
“I have grown up with softball in this community my whole life,” Keurzi said. “I know how much softball teaches you outside of just the game and I want to spread that through our community.
”I was kind of worried that we wouldn’t have enough numbers at first, but we ended up filling up by the end of March (laughs).”
There is more than hope that this will be more than a one-off for the Braves softball clinic here in Troup County. With participants hitting record-breaking numbers, it is safe to assume that the Braves and the Troup County Parks and Rec department will make this an annual tradition.
“We are getting the word out across the state of Georgia and we have a lot of repeat athletes and areas,” Webb said. “We are continuing to grow and have gotten a lot better since we first started.”
Each camper also received a hat, a shirt and a voucher to an Atlanta Braves game.