MANHATTAN – Manhattan has welcomed softball into their athletic department. Those in the program know there will be bumps along the way in their first year of existence.
“We want to do a lot of learning,” head coach Randy Cygan said. “We want to be competitive with everybody we play, that’s going to be the main thing for me. We want to get to the point where we can compete with everybody. A lot of teams (in the state) have had programs for 10-15 years, so it’s going to be a learning experience all the way around.”
“My expectations are to work hard,” infielder Matilda Dietz said of the upcoming season. It’s going to be a little rough because all of the other schools have been practicing for a long time, and they just have been around softball, and this is our first year. I think if we work hard and we put in a lot of effort, we’ll get where we want to get by the end of the season.”
With just two seniors on the roster, Cygan and Dietz hope to build the program for success in the years to come.
“It’s just the numbers, mostly,” Cygan said in regard to the program’s growth. “It’s a first-year program, so we don’t have many upperclassmen because nobody’s played since they were in probably 8th grade. Any of the seniors or juniors we have now, none of them have played for three or four years.”
“I want little kids to come and watch us to see what high school softball is like,” Dietz said. “I want them to keep going on with softball in their elementary and junior high years so that when they’re in high school, they’re ready to play.”
Dietz is one of the few Tigers with playing experience, having played for four years prior to high school. The birth of the program came right in time for Dietz.
“I played from about 3rd grade through 6th grade, but then there was no high school team, so I started playing volleyball in the spring,” Dietz said. “When I was little I really liked softball, and my dad was a coach — he coached baseball — so I’ve just been around the sport itself a long time.
“I was really sad to not be able to continue playing it, but when I heard there was a program starting, my first instinct was to go out because I missed it,” Dietz continued. “I only have a year and a half left of high school, so I want to make it the best I can and try everything I can.”
The new season has not come without challenges for the Tigers. Snow, cold weather, and a lack of facilities have slowed down the beginning of the campaign for Manhattan.
“It’s always the weather at the beginning of the year,” Cygan said with a chuckle. “Gym space (has been problematic) because we’re sharing with the middle school, and (the track team) is in the bigger gym most of the time. Manhattan is building a pretty large gym now, so things are kind of chaotic. Just hurrying up, having to carry gear from here to there, and then getting a good practice after that has been (difficult).”