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Plum coaches at heart of softball league

| Monday, June 14, 2004

PLUM -- After being eliminated from a tournament at Penn Hills last August, Plum Senior League players were clearly disappointed. Coaches Peter Spynda and Paul Letzelter said they saw tears in their players' eyes.

That emotional reaction gave the coaches an idea.

To keep the competition alive, Spynda and Letzelter constructed a collegiate-level, slow-pitch softball league during the offseason for players ages19 through 23.

"The girls kept saying that they wanted to play some more, why can't we play more," said Spynda. "After the loss we were done and the girls were tearing up and after they left, Paul and I stuck around and talked for a while."

With a little imagination, determination and a few proposals at Plum Boro council meetings, the Plum Collegiate Softball League was born.

"Paul and I went to a couple board meetings and talked how we would run it and they (council) were real receptive to it," Spynda said.

Now the task of getting the word out is the next hurdle for the new league.

"We sent out post cards to a lot of former players around the time they would be home from college on Christmas break," Spynda said.

Spynda and Letzelter were orginally hoping for enough players to put together four or five teams, but by registration deadline word had gotten out attracting over 90 players, enough to fill out seven teams.

"(Sign-ups) started out kind of slow at first but at the last minute we got a rush and we went to seven teams with one team playing a double-header every Sunday," Spynda said.

The seven teams, one of which travels from Saxonburg, are named after Big Ten and Big East college teams.

Spynda thinks that the quality of play is much better because each player has a passion for the sport and the league is a better alternative to recreational or bar softball leagues.

"We were sitting in a circle after our last game and thinking of some way to come up with another league and keep playing," said Jen Letzelter, a 19-year-old student at CCAC-Boyce. "I get excited to play the next week and it's nice to see everyone again."

The word "collegiate" in the league name is because of the players' age range. Spynda said the name was necessary in order for the team to play at the Plum Boro Athletic Association fields.

Spynda also thinks that one or two players may play college softball but the majority of them played high school and ASA softball growing up.

The new league is accomodating for the players as they only play on Sundays from mid-May through August because of busy work schedules.

"We knew that girls are real busy in college so we said what about one night a week," said Melissa Spynda, a student at Indiana (Pa.).

Peter Spynda and Letzelter added a wrinkle when drawing up the rules to the fledgling league by allowing players to steal bases after the fourth inning.

"We had a winless team beat an undefeated team last week by stealing bases," Spynda said. "It adds a little more to the game."

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