It’s been a banner year for the Red Deer Rage softball program.
The organization has several teams in various age groups making appearances in provincial and Western Canadian championships while one team, the U16 girls are competing for a national title.
Is it something in the water?
“It’s been coming,” said Rage President Clayton Cassidy. “We knew we had some birth years that were very strong but it takes time to filter its way through the system.”
He added the girls born in 1998 have been strong from day one it seems, showing up almost every year in the provincial tournament.
“And then after that our ‘99s and 2000s – it just seems like it that was the kick-start of our organization turning the corner,” he said.
The proof is in the pudding and this batch is rich with success as 12 teams from the Rage program punched their ticket to provincials at different levels with six medals coming back to Red Deer.
The U14 team, coached by Cassidy, managed to put together a dominant performance in Lloydminster over the August long weekend, capturing the gold medal by blanking defending champion Victoria 7-0 in the final.
While there was a slight bump in the road on the way to the final the Rage were rock solid throughout, beating teams handily as they played 10 games in four days at the tournament.
“This is a pretty well rounded group,” he said. “I mean this group, they were provincial champs when they were U10 and U12 so it just seems to carry on with them. There is about eight or nine of those kids that have been a part of every championship team.”
Under Softball Alberta rules, this age group is not able to compete in the national championship so this victory was the last one for this group of girls and Cassidy said that’s a shame.
“It’s in the lower mainland this year and we go to a tournament there each long weekend in May and do quite well there.”
The Rage teams compete in the Central Alberta League and Cassidy said there are close to 50 teams playing in the league.
He feels the Rage program is one of the strongest in Western Canada and it’s hard to argue with the claim.
“There’s no program out there that offers the grassroots program and right up to the elite level.”
The Rage program at one point did include the boys but the numbers dropped off and the very strong minor baseball program continues to be the destination for the young men in the community, said Cassidy.
“Between the Red Deer Rage fastball and Red Deer Braves baseball, Red Deer has two very strong programs.”
The consistent success with the fastball program is a solid indication of what is being done within the organization is the right way to go but it’s taken time to construct what may be termed a dynasty of sorts.
“It’s not something that you can build overnight,” he said. “It takes a long time and a lot of work and a lot of commitment from a lot of coaches and obviously by players and parents.”
Each year there are about 200 girls of all ages who are part of the Rage program and Cassidy said that seems to be the perfect number, give or take a few on either side of that mark.
“Our system runs very well. We usually end up with 18 teams and we can have the coaching in place and the support in place and the whole program kind of runs itself.”
It appears to be running quite smoothly.