Two Harbors’ Odegaard Park came alive Monday, July 1, with two softball teams playing doubleheaders.
Teams were chanting from the dugout and parents were cheering as a 10 and under (10U) team and a team for girls ages 16-18 played on neighboring fields at the park.
The two teams are half of the youth softball teams in Two Harbors, up from just one team for girls at the varsity or junior varsity level last summer.
The new teams are part of a project by Luke Heikkila to increase the opportunities for young girls to play softball. He formed the Two Harbors Youth Softball Association (THYSA) earlier this year and the response was overwhelming.
“There’s never been anything this extensive, something spanning the entire fourth grade through 12th grade,” Heikkila said. “We’ve always has some team in town, but never four of them like this.”
Heikkila recruited 71 girls to play in the league and raised nearly $5,000 in a month to get the league off the ground. Heikkila said 64 of the girls are from Two Harbors and the remainder are from Iron Range towns like Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt.
He received a $3,000 grant from the Grandma’s Marathon Young Athletes Foundation and another $1,000 from the City of Two Harbors to support the league.
“(The city) is helping out with some other in-kind ways, too,” Heikkila said. “The city drags all the fields; they do all the paint. The city is really helping out. They’re doing an awesome job.”
In fact, Heikkila said Two Harbors could have fielded a second 10U team, but didn’t want to overextend the league or himself without being sure of the numbers and parental support beforehand.
Heikkila wants to provide more opportunities for girls to play softball in Two Harbors and, by extension, develop a stronger feeder program for the Agate varsity program.
Heikkila was recently named the Agates' head coach for 2020. Previous coach Chris Lemke stepped down after Two Harbors finished its 2019 season.
“It’s just a new coach and new ideas trying to do a development thing,” Heikkila said. “I wanted something that encompassed the whole school, rather than just the high school kids. I thought I’d end up with two teams ... and I ended up with over 60 girls. It just blew up on me.”
For more information on the THYSA, contact Luke Heikkila at firstname.lastname@example.org.