NAFA Hall of Fame member, Bud Olson, is helping lead the effort to train young athletes to become fast-pitch pitchers in order to reestablish a competitive men’s fastpitch program in LaCrosse. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2014 NAFA World Series
By Nick Tabbert / WXOW.COM, LA CROSSE
La Crosse, WI (WXOW) – Fifteen years ago, fastpitch softball was a dying sport in La Crosse.
Now, thanks to the efforts of local enthusiasts, the game is trending upward once again, drawing the interest of players young and old.
Fran Formanek, a longtime supporter of the game, said the Dairyland Men’s Fastpitch League had to fold in the late 1990s due to low participation.
This season, there are 10 teams in the league, including a team sponsored by Animal House of La Crosse.
“We just feel there’s a real passion for the game here and there’s a lot of great athletes that are interested I believe in playing,” Formanek said. “If we can start getting some people involved in it, we think we can re-build the league and also become a national power throughout the United States like we were back in the 70s and 60s and 50s.”
A big part of the game is pitching. Both Formanek and Animal House’s team manager Bud Olson believe the resurgence relies on the arms of young pitchers.
“We know there’s a lot of good athletes in this town. What we do need to do is we need to develop pitchers,” he said.
Olson said his goal is to find a group of players just out of high school and develop them into competitive pitchers, a process that could take up to three years.
The North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) will hold its state qualifier tournament at La Crosse’s Erickson Park from July 22-24. Olson said there will be a reunion for former fastpitch players on Saturday, July 23. Players are encouraged to wear their old jerseys to receive free admission.
For more information about the NAFA state qualifier tournament and Wisconsin men’s fastpitch visit: Wisconsin Fastpitch