Just more than two years ago, when Matt Grant took his daughter, Grace, to sign up for softball at Dr. Phillips Little League, he was confronted with a bit of a problem — the league’s softball program had fewer than 10 girls.
The program, which had seen better days in the past decade, was near rock-bottom so far as participation. Grant, who is now the program’s player agent, remembers worrying whether the league would be able to field a team for the regular season — let alone an All-Star team.
What a difference a couple years and an increase in participation can make.
Last weekend, the DPLL 10U Softball All-Stars completed an impressive run in the Florida Little League Softball 10U State Tournament. After consulting people who have been involved with the league over the years, Grant believes it is the first time that a softball team from Dr. Phillips made it to state.
“It’s kind of hard, because record-keeping has been spotty — but the collective memory of the people involved is that this is the first time,” Grant said.
The team, coached by Jes Willis, topped Windermere in a best-of-three series to decide the District 14 title and later swept through three games at the Section 5 tournament. Beating Windermere, considered a powerhouse of sorts here in Central Florida (WLL’s 12U team currently is preparing for the state tournament this weekend), was a significant accomplishment in its own right. The team went 0-3 at the state tournament in DeLand.
DP’s run, though it ended at the state level, is emblematic of the turnaround for the program. DPLL softball now has five teams across three age divisions, and last summer marked the first time the program had fielded an All-Stars team in at least five years. This summer, it fielded two. Many of the girls also are competing for travel teams outside of Little League.
“(Making state is) a big accomplishment for the girls and it’s also just a big accomplishment for the program,” Grant said. “We’re to the point where we’re viable and competitive.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].