By Maren Angus
Picture this. A hotel conference room in Clearwater, Florida, with stacks of shorts, shirts, socks, softball pants, softball jerseys, hoodies, sweat pants and three-quarter zips. Now, a group of girls walk in. Some are from the United States, but most of them are from Peru. They all have their eyes closed and are holding onto one another for navigation. Then, they open their eyes.
When the team arrived for the WBSC Jr. World Championship, the girls had uniforms that were eight years old. The sight in that conference brought tears to everyone’s eyes including assistant coach Jaime Wohlbach.
Wohlbach, the head coach at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, made it happen along with Longstreth Sporting Goods Store.
“I reached out to my softball friends, coaches and families of those I work closely with in the summer ball system,” said Wohlbach. “They all stepped in to provide donations for me to reach a goal of $25,000. The amount of support to make this happen was amazing.”
The amount of gear that Longstreth provided for Peru Softball totaled $50,000 and is all Under Armor. Each girl in the Junior and National team program received two sets of uniforms, practice shirts, shorts, quarter zip, warm up suit, hats, belts, sock and the coaches received coaching gear.
“If someone was to ask me what is one of my proudest moments in softball, that’s probably one of them,” said Wohlbach. “To be able to give back to the game for how much softball I’ve done in my lifetime, it was so awesome to just touch their hearts in that way.”
This year is the first time Peru has had a junior team participate in the WBSC Jr. World Championship. The team also won its first game on Wednesday, 8-2 against the Bahamas.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “Obviously, there’s a language barrier and I speak minimal Spanish but I’m taking classes and I’m working on it. I know the coaches are looking for more funding and the players had a dream for new uniforms. You know if you look good, you play good.”
A few players from the women’s team have been speaking up for the program as a whole. Wilson donated 50-plus gloves to grow the sport amongst the young to help the country get ready to host the Pan American Games in 2019.
In the last year, there has been so much advancement in the sport of softball according to Wohlbach.
“I’ve been helping for close to two years and I’ve seen so much growth. There’s more players getting involved, there’s equipment getting over there. I’ve taken over 100-plus bats and 10 dozen of balls. They’re not using white balls anymore and they are using yellow balls. We’ve had so much support, it’s been amazing.”
With all the outside support of Peru Softball, there is no doubt that there will be a team competing at the 2019 Pan Am Games.