Editor’s note: This story was largely written prior to the postponement of a wide range of sporting events – including the EGSL’s planned starting date – in response to the …
Editor’s note: This story was largely written prior to the postponement of a wide range of sporting events – including the EGSL’s planned starting date – in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Turning 50 is a milestone for any business or organization.
This season, it’s one being celebrated by the Edgewood Girls Softball League.
“Edgewood softball was always about community. We were a neighborhood,” said Coleen (Barry) Sivo, a former player and current coach.
Sivo said there had always been baseball in the neighborhood, but the softball league offered something different.
“This was an opportunity for girls. There are still a few founding families involved, which makes this anniversary so special,” she said.
Recalling her experience as a player, she added: “It was local, it was in the neighborhood. Everyone from school played. I rode my bike to practice with friends. I played from 12 years old to my senior year at [Cranston High School East].”
Games were always at the Park View Middle School field, starting with girls between the ages of 12 and 17. T-ball for younger kids was added in 1994, when Sivo’s daughter, Lindsay was 5.
“I was excited for my girls to play. My girls were interested in playing. The opportunity was there to join the team in the neighborhood, to play with their friends, schoolmates. I was able to stay involved through the girls playing. I started coaching when Lindsay was 10, in 1999, 21 years ago,” she said.
Sivo credits the league’s volunteers for its longevity.
“Rick Davies, his daughter aged out years ago, and he has served for seven years. There are many families that are multi-generational. Close to 10,000 girls have played at one time or another. We have players from Pawtucket, Warwick and Central Falls. Anyone who wants to play and can get to the field is welcome,” she said.
As Sivo reflected on her time as a player and a coach in the league, many of her memories are similar.
“Some favorite memories of playing are that it was fun being an older player trying to teach and help the younger players. The unity, the friendships that have lasted since – my greatest joy as a coach is teaching the love of the game, the importance of teamwork, supporting each other, keeping it positive, that girls can and should support each other,” she said.
Former players also shared their special memories.
“I was 12 years old when I learned about the Edgewood Girls Softball League. Other than a neighborhood friend who went to try-outs with me, I did not know any of the girls in the league. Through this league I have gained a wonderful extended family and many lifelong friends,” said Kelly (Stone) Britton.
She recalls the call from her new coach, Bob Lawton.
“He told me I made the team and welcomed me to the Red Devils. At the time, I lived near Bain Junior High School, 2½ miles from Park View. Many days I would ride my bike to practice after school and return home before dark. During my time with the league, we moved to Johnston, increasing my commute,” Britton said.
She added: “I was so dedicated to my team, and having Mr. Lawton as a coach was such a blessing. Mr. Lawton taught me so much about softball, but more important he was so caring and compassionate. He knew I was from a single-parent home and he was such a positive role model. He was a great father, husband, friend and coach. Mr. Lawton would often help me with registration fees so that I was able to play each year.”
Britton played for the Red Devils from 1979 through 1984. In her early years she idolized veteran players like Barbara Lawton, Tisha Ricci and Sue Clark. She still keeps in contact with fellow teammates Beth Lawson and Ann Maire Ryan to this day.
“I truly enjoyed playing in the EGSL and especially under Mr. Lawton. For a couple of years before I left for the military, I was on the Red Devils coaching staff with the Barbara Lawton – carrying on her dad’s legacy – and Robin Laroche. It felt great to give back to the league that gave me so much in my impressionable years,” she said.
Julie (Whitney) Roberts also expressed her gratitude to the league. She played for the Panthers starting when she was 12.
“Edgewood Girls Softball League means the world to me, she said. “This is a league where I spent more than half my life. I first became involved in the league when I was 12 years old as a player … I had so much fun playing softball games with and against my friends. I met some amazing coaches who cared about the league and all the players, even those players that were not on their team.”
Roberts became an assistant coach for the Elks in the league’s senior division at age 19. The following year, league president Rick Roy “took a chance on me” and named her the team’s head coach.
“I spent the next 16 years coaching this amazing team,” she said. “Over the years I met so many players, both those that I coached and those I didn’t. Edgewood is family. Coaches and league members treated all of the girls within the league as if they were their own players/daughters.”
Roberts went on to serve the league in other capacities, including as a member of, and officer for, its executive board. She spent part of that time as the league’s president.
When Roberts started coaching in the league, she didn’t have children, but she said the girls she coached became like daughters to her.
“The league was family. Coaches hung out together, not just at the field, but at cookouts and sometimes each other’s family functions,” she said. “When I served as president, my goal was to build a great league for the players and families involved. I wanted the girls to love the league as much as I did … I knew every player’s name and what team they played for.”
There were tough days and a lot of work and stress involved in running the league, but Roberts said seeing the girls playing softball with their friends – and having a blast – made it all worth it.
“During my time there, there were also some real tough times. We had a couple of longtime coaches pass away and then we had a player pass away unexpectedly, Katie Lavey,” she said. “This was the worst and hardest time for myself and the league. Having to tell these girls that they had lost a teammate and fellow league player was the hardest thing I have ever experienced.”
However, watching the girls lean on each other for support and band together to help support Katie’s family was one of the most beautiful things Robert has seen.
“This happened because Edgewood is family. Players, parents, league members and coaches are all family,” she said.
As someone with a long history with the league, Laurie (Jennings) Lavey saw firsthand how the members of the league’s community have rallied around their own.
Lavey is a board member for the league. She is also a former player, the parent of two girls – one former player and one current player – and a coach for the T-ball and junior divisions.
“I played in the league from approximately 1975-1980. There was only one division in the league at the time, players were ages 12-18,” she said. “In 1997, I returned to the league when my oldest daughter, Katie, started playing. When she began playing the league had grown to having three divisions of teams. I began my coaching as an assistant coach in 1998, which I continued doing until 2002. By then, I had just had my youngest daughter and Katie moved up to seniors, so I decided to step away from coaching. I picked up coaching again when my youngest, Kerry, was participating in the T-ball program in 2007. I now still coach the T-ball division and a junior division team.”
Lavey feels there are many things that make the league special.
“First of all, that we are still thriving as we approach the beginning of our 50th season. There are not many leagues that can say that,” she said. “Edgewood Girls Softball has remained a slow pitch recreational league through all the years even though fast pitch has become the softball genre of middle school, high school and college. We believe that we still serve a large community of girls. We have a league where everyone can be successful no matter what their ability level. Every player can have fun and learn the game of softball and walk away feeling good about themselves and building friendships that last a lifetime.”
Lavey emphasized the fact that the league is deeply involved in the community.
“We try to teach our girls that it is important to give back to the community. Each season we try to have some sort of community giving weekend,” she said. “In the past we have had breast cancer awareness weekends, and the last few years we have had drives to collect food and personal care items that we donate to CCAP. We have a scholarship fund that gives out scholarships to graduating senior players to help a little with college expenses. We have given out over 35 scholarships over the last 14 years. The scholarship fund was started in memory of my daughter Katie, who passed away unexpectedly in 2005 at the age of 16. Katie loved the league.”
There have been changes in the support the players have received over the years as well.
“I can remember as player that not many people would come to watch our games. Now I look at the field when we have games and our stands are full of family and friends cheering on the girls. So as we approach the start of our 50th season I believe we can look back and say that we have served our community well and look forward and say that we still have a purpose and place within our community,” Lavey said.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis forced a delay in the start of the milestone season, and the schedule remains uncertain. In a recent message on Facebook, league president Joe Tortolano said the organization’s board will “plan as best we can and make sure Edgewood has its 50th season.”
For more information, visit edgewoodgirlssoftball.org or follow the league’s Facebook page.