WEST JEFFERSON — The Blue Ridge Thunder, a local showcase softball team based out of Sparta, is hoping to add some more talent from right here in Ashe County.
“We’ve been up and running for about a year. We hope to put a lot of our players in front of college scouts and college coaches with the ultimate goal being to get scholarships for our players or at least play in college,” said coach Chad Burgess.
Burgess, who has a daughter that plays softball and volleyball at Ashe County High School, would like to see more girls from Ashe wanting to come out and be a part of the Blue Ridge Thunder.
“We’ve already got three or four girls being looked at by colleges and even a couple girls play overseas on the junior national team so we’ve got some talent, but we’re always looking for more,” he said.
The Blue Ridge Thunder are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that uses sponsorship dollars and donations to be able to keep the playing costs as low as they can on the players and families.
The Thunder started out as a 14-and-under team, but now the coaches have decided now is the time to try and build up the program in other age groups as well.
Currently, the Thunder has players from Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes and Alleghany County.
The team has put together an open tryout for their upcoming 12U, 16U and 18U teams at Family Central. The tryouts are set for Aug. 19. In the spring of 2018, tryouts will take place for the 10U and 14U teams.
There will be a morning session starting at 10 a.m. and an afternoon session starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19. If a player cannot make it out to Family Central on this day, there will be a make up session at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26.
Players only need to attend one of these sessions for their try out. Having the three different tryout sessions will allow players and parents to work around other summer commitments will still having a chance to make the team.
To make it as easy on players as possible, practices and tournaments in both the fall and spring seasons that the Thunder participate in will be weekend events, allowing for the players to play multiple sports and play softball at their respective high schools. The fall season will last through the middle of November while the spring and summer season will pick back up in March of 2018.
“We encourage all of our kids to play at the middle school, high school or rec league ball. We just want to try and help the kids get better,” Burgess said. “We also encourage our kids to be multi-sport players, that’s what coaches want in college.”
This past season, Burgess estimated that the team played in close to 130 games.
“We try our best not to conflict with school sports. It can be hard to do in the summer months, especially for kids that play basketball and need to play it during the summer, but we do everything we can to schedule around other sports,” Burgess added. “We usually only play every other weekend at the most. At the end of the day, most of these girls are teenagers, they have to have some time away and enjoy other opportunities.”
You can find out more about the Thunder by checking out their Facebook page by searching “Blue Ridge Thunder Fastpitch.”
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-489-3062.