Last swing: Special game marks rite of passage for Homewood youth softball players

When Homewood youth softball coach Hope Zawaski realized that 26 girls were “aging out” of junior level softball at the same time, she and her husband, Junior League President Jay Zawaski, decided to plan something special.

They organized the Last Swing game, a kind of swan song for the 13-year-olds who were leaving the Izaak Walton ballfields behind and graduating to the senior level, which plays across town at Apollo Park.

“We wanted to do something special for them,” Jay said.

Parents and players pose for a photo. (Provided photo)

The Last Swing was a pickup game June 25, capping off the regular season. The graduating girls divided up into two teams and played one more game on a field that was the site of many cherished memories.

The players who participated in the Last Swing game. (Provided photo)

As each player came up to their first at-bat, the announcer shared the player’s favorite memories from all the games played and friends made along the way.

Hope said one of the rewarding things about coaching was seeing girls find somewhere to belong and to watch them learn new skills together.

“It’s hard to put into words what the softball program has meant to (daughter) Addie, and our family,” Hope said. “We value the experience so much. As a parent, I have watched her blossom into a confident player.”

She said the inspiration for the game came last year. Only three girls she and Jay coached were moving on, but they noted how often the graduating players remarked about it being their last season at Izaak Walton. So the Zawaskis gave them a small jar of dirt and celebrated their accomplishments at the end of the season.

“They loved it,” Jay said. So the couple decided to include the whole league in the farewell celebration this year.

The blue team won the inaugural Last Swing game, 17 to 16.

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