2016-05-05 / Neighbors

Girls Little League covers all bases

On and off the field, league strives to develop good citizens out of players
By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer


Hayley Desjardins walks off the mound with her father, Mike Desjardins, after throwing the opening pitch at the softball season’s opening ceremony for the Saco Girls Little League. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) Hayley Desjardins walks off the mound with her father, Mike Desjardins, after throwing the opening pitch at the softball season’s opening ceremony for the Saco Girls Little League. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) SACO – The Saco Girls Little League celebrated the opening of its 25th season last Saturday, with 13-yearold Hayley Desjardins delivering the honorary opening pitch.

The league hosts three softball divisions for Saco girls ages 6 to 12: the coach pitch division for ages 6 to 8, minor division for 9- and 10-year-olds, and the major division for girls ages 11 and 12. The coach pitch and minor divisions each have three teams and the majors, two.

League teams play other teams in their division, as well as other Little League softball teams from Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunk, Lyman, Old Orchard Beach and Waterboro.

Missy Pennell, the information officer and a board member of the league, has been involved with the Saco Girls Little League for five years. Her daughter, Zoey Pennell, plays on the majors division Pennell Printing team, named after the family’s printing business.

“I like the team atmosphere and camaraderie with all the girls,” Missy Pennell said. “They spend a lot of time together. It really becomes a true team, like a family.”

Pennell said the league has held fundraisers and taken out a loan in recent years to improve the Saco Girls Little League Field, the league’s home base located behind Saco Middle School.

Pennell said the group has funded new siding, roofing and windows for the Snack Shack, made improvements to the field and purchased a new scoreboard, all within the last two years.

The Saco Girls Little League exists under the charter of Saco Little League, and the highest ranking officer of the Saco Girls Little League, Tim Savage, is by default, the vice president of Saco Little League. Savage’s daughter, Ashley Savage, also plays on the Pennell Printing team with Zoey.


Top, Mady Tracy tosses a ball to Jenna Lavallee, both of the Molleur Law team, during warm-ups after the Saco Girls Little League opening ceremony last Saturday. Bottom, Haley Lamb, also of the Molleur Law team, throws to Renee Gonneville of the Prime Ford team. In the background, Pennell Printing team players limber up. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) Top, Mady Tracy tosses a ball to Jenna Lavallee, both of the Molleur Law team, during warm-ups after the Saco Girls Little League opening ceremony last Saturday. Bottom, Haley Lamb, also of the Molleur Law team, throws to Renee Gonneville of the Prime Ford team. In the background, Pennell Printing team players limber up. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) Tim Savage said the Saco Girls Little League Field is one of the only girls Little League fields in the state that has lights to illuminate night play – lights that Saco Girls Little League paid for. Although the field is owned by the city and managed by the parks and recreation department, Savage said the league has an agreement with the city for use of the field.

Savage said each team is required to play at least 12 games during the season to qualify for tournaments, and are usually scheduled for 13 or 14 games in case one is rained out.

Last year, the league hosted the District 4 All-Star minors tournament and this year, it will host the All- Star majors tournament, which will start June 19 and last about eight days.

Savage said the girls league currently has 90 players but in past years, has had as many as 250.

Savage said the Little League is more than a competitive sport; it follows the international league’s mission to develop good residents.

“It’s not so much about win and lose, it’s more about developing better girls, better citizens and better students and doing it through competition,” Savage said.

The girls league was established in 1991 and although it doesn’t currently have any set plans to celebrate the silver anniversary, Savage said a season’s closing ceremony will be held for the first time this year, when the landmark anniversary will be acknowledged.

Savage said seeing Hayley’s first pitch was a positive moment for the league because of the community support the league holds for Hayley’s cause. In 2008, Hayley was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a bone marrow disease that causes a deficiency of blood cells.

Her experience with the disease has been up and down, going in and out of remission, but last year a donor match was found for her to receive a bone marrow transplant. Hayley, an alumni of Saco Girls Little League, and her family founded the annual Hugs for Hayley 5k Run and Walk in 2008, to raise money for the Maine Children’s Cancer Program. Hayley’s father, Mike Desjardins, is also a past vice president of the Saco Little League, representing the girls league.

Savage said last year, the league donated $2,500 to Hugs from Hayley, raised from T-shirt sales.

“It’s a good news story,” Savage said. “It puts the focus back on building a better athlete and a better citizen as well as a better athlete. I feel that makes us somewhat unique. Sometimes it’s frustrating as a parent because in a lot of places, the girls don’t have such a focus on the community. (The girls Little League) is a fantastic organization where we have a great focus on building a better citizen.”

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