Coming out across the main board with a nice belly slide, thus bringing a point, is unfortunately not an option in wheelchair softball. With that said, Frank Hoenning wants to make the sport bigger in the Netherlands which is why there was a demonstration game during Harlem Baseball Week. “At the end of the day, it would be a dream to organize an international tournament.”
You can only play this new sport at the Sparks Baseball and Softball Club in Harlem. “I understand that many teams are interested,” says Frank Hunning, a softball pioneer in a wheelchair. “And I hope so, because then we can train against other teams and exchange training tactics. This is now very limited.”
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In the basics, a wheelchair softball is not significantly different from a regular variant. The batting team tries to hit the ball away and then get to the home board via three bases, because you have earned a point. When a player tries to advance by one base, the fielding team can mark that player with the hit ball. After a player has been drawn three times, the field team is in batting mode.
“In this format, the bases and balls are a little bit bigger,” continues Hooning, who explains a lot during the demonstration. “And it’s really hard to catch the ball quickly from the ground. But normally we don’t play on clay, it’s just now for the demonstration.”
“I dreamed that I would hit the ball”
Ilse Moerkerk entered the pilot competition and appears to be a talent. “I actually dreamed that I would hit the ball and it just came true,” she laughs. “I even managed to score a point. Really great fun.”
Sandra Prinz, who does a lot of manual cycling, also attended the event: “The hard thing is to hit the ball well. When you stand up, you can hit from your hip. That’s not possible now because a wheelchair will do that then. Turn.”
However, Sandra also manages to hit the ball, in fact: she shoots home. “Yes, sports, that makes you a fanatic,” she says proudly. “If you do it, you have to do it well.”
Wheelchair Softball Week in Harlem?
While an exhibition game was still being played, Hooning hopes to be able to organize Haarlem’s wheelchair softball week one day. “I am already in contact with teams in America and Japan, where the sport is much bigger. If there are more teams in Holland, I can invite those countries as well. That would be great.”
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