Delaney Holmes has been playing softball for such a long time, the adorable 8-year-old had to count the years on her fingers.
“Basically,” she said, before stepping onto the newly renovated softball field at Blue Springs South High School for the second day of the Jaguars camp for kids, “you can just say I’ve been playing all my life.
“And that’s why I’m so excited to play at camp with all my favorite girls. It’s so much fun to play with the big girls. We learn a lot, but mostly, we have fun.”
Her father, Eric Holmes, the head boys track coach at Fort Osage High School, grinned and nodded in agreement.
“She was pretty excited to get up here and see the girls from South and all her friends,” Holmes said. “This is a big deal for the little kids.”
And that point was not lost on Kristi Williams, the host of the camp and the coach of the reigning Class 4 state softball champions.
“I told our girls that they are superstars to these little girls — not because they won state, most of the little girls don’t even know we won state — they are superstars because they taking time to teach them how to play and little girls love that.
“And to be honest with you, our girls love it, too. I think they’re having as much fun as the little kids.”
That statement was backed by South outfielder Elle Smith, who owns a page in Jaguars sports lore with a game-saving catch in South’s 4-3 District 13 championship win over Lee’s Summit North.
“We’re having as much fun as the campers,” said Smith, who stands just 4-foot-11, but carries a big personality for the Jaguars. “They look up to us. They even look up to me, and some of them are taller than I am.
“But this is a day we all look forward to. We’ve been talking about the camp and how excited we are about working with all the little girls. We love it.”
All the campers adopt a sister during the camp, so they can have one-on-one contact with a member of the South team.
Selecting a South player was easy for 8-year-old Bri Heaton, whose older sister Melaina is a member of the Jaguars.
Before the camp started, Bri was running the bases, sliding and having a good time.
“It’s cool to come to camp with my sister,” Bri said. “Sometimes she (playfully) punches me, but we have fun.”
Melania added, “We do have a lot of fun. I think Bri loves softball as much as I do.”
It didn’t take Kenley Roper, 8, long to bond with Sophie Lopez, who gave her a piggyback ride around the infield.
“I love Sophie because she is so nice to me, and she taguht me so much about softball,” Kenley said.
That brought a smile to Lopez’s face.
“These little girls have stars in their eyes when they come to camp, and we love playing with them and coaching them,” Lopez said.
While the campers got warmed up, Williams gave one humorous word of advice to her team.
“You can see we’re getting a new scoreboard installed in right field,” the coach said, grinning. “So, we’re going to stay away from right field. We don’t want any of our campers squished by the scoreboard.”