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Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 2:06 am

Girls of Spring

BY PATRICIA A. RUSSELL
Special to The Journal | 04/29/2003

PAWTUCKET — Play ball!

Brenda Hofknecht was 8 years old when she signed up to play baseball with the Pawtucket Slaterettes. She came back every spring after that until she was 17.

“After you turned 17, you couldn’t play any more,” she recalled. “It broke my heart because I loved it.”

Now 33, the Pawtucket native is back on the field, playing her favorite position, third base, and wearing the her old number on the back of her T-shirt — 1.

Her two daughters — 5-year-old McKenzie is in the instructional division and 8-year-old Shelby is in the minor division — also wear T-shirts with the number 1 on the back.

And, lucky for Hofknecht, the league now offers adult women the opportunity to play baseball.

The major division is open to women ages 14 to 70.

Once Hofknecht found out she could return and play, there was no keeping her off the field, she said, adding that her batting, catching and throwing skills “are better than ever.”

Hofknecht’s mom, Kathy Doucette, of Pawtucket, will watch from the sidelines just as she did years ago.

“Oh, my God. I was the baseball mom. I had the whole team practicing in my backyard and sleeping overnight in my house,” she recalled recently as she watched her granddaughters play an exhibition game at McCarthy Complex at 1 Moeller Place in Pawtucket.

“Back then there was no concession stand, so I always brought a 30-gallon cooler with Kool-Aid for everyone. Now, they have a concession stand,” she said. So, instead of drinks, she plans to bring lollipops for the girls and the women players.

This season — opening day was Saturday — the Pawtucket Slaterettes baseball league celebrates its 30th year. Originally it was called the Darlington Pioneers, a hardball league for girls ages 10 to 16.

“As far as we are aware of, the Pawtucket-based league is home to the only all-girls and women’s baseball in the USA,” league spokesman Steven Janelle said. The league accepts players from Pawtucket and surrounding towns, including Southeastern Massachusetts.

According to league officials, the purpose of the league is to perpetuate and extend the knowledge of baseball and implant the ideas of sportsmanship.

No one had to encourage Lyndsey Barbehenn, 12, to cheer.

“Yeah, Anna!” she screamed at the top of her lungs as Anna Stone, of Pawtucket, hit a curve ball and ran to first base.

“I’m trying to cheer everybody on,” the Rehoboth, Mass., resident said.

The league consists of four divisions: instructional, for ages 5 through 7; minor, ages 8 through 10; junior, ages 11 through 13; and major, 14 and older. The oldest player to sign up so far is 55-year-old Ann Salisbury, of Rehoboth.

“I just retired after working 34 years at the Seekonk post office and I thought [baseball] might be interesting to do,” she said.

After one night of practice last Thursday, Salisbury had this to say: “It’s good exercise. That’s for sure.”