Going into the 2019 summer softball all-star season, the expectations for the NYO 12U Blue Angels were modest, even according to the ever-optimistic Head Angel, Dave Ryan. Let’s go have some fun and see if we can improve a bit. But what happened over the last two fortnights absolutely blew away the Vegas oddsmakers and softball pundits from here to Rockmart. The Blue Angels caught fire and climbed the charts like Taylor Swift, and ended up with a 12-3-1 record, while winning their final tournament, the AYSA Championships, in convincing fashion.
It was a brief, but spectacular summer season, that saw the Blue Angels first reach the semifinals of the Sandy Springs Slam, then go to the finals of the GSA “Who Will Be #1” tournament in Rockmart, and finally take home the big trophy from the AYSA Championships in Alpharetta. Every week, whether they played five or six games over the weekend, the Blue Angels few higher.
It was a summer of success for the Blue Angels, but it was also a summer of the best collection of nicknames since “Animal House” hit theatres. On the mound was Helen “Slaw Dog” Slawson, who was an absolute stopper in the last tournament with back-to-back shutouts against the Alpharetta Attack. Her batterymate at times was Issy “I-Ball” Banks, who was a leading candidate for Most Improved Player over the quick summer. In the infield was “Elvis” Presley Tsang, who had enough siblings to field her own kickball team. Patrolling the outfield and on the mound at times was “The Weather Man,” Katie Weathersby.
Picking everything clean at third base was “Nova,” Gracie Novascone. The Blue Angels’ leadoff hitter who set the table like Guy Fieri was Addie “AD” Langston, who led the team with 20 runs scored in 23 official at-bats. And who can forget the MLB throwback references of Kelly “Rod” Kerew and Emma “Eddie” Murray.
Rounding out the Blue Angels squad was clean-up hitter/coach’s daughter, Taylor Ryan, who usually hit the plate with her bat as hard as her laser shots to the outfield. And fellow coach’s daughter, Hannah Mabry, played every game at shortstop, providing defensive excellence at a key position. Number two hitter, Caitlin Katz, was a great all-around player and key seasoned veteran on the Blue Angels squad. And finally, Elie Kaufman was one of the team’s top hitters and RBI producers.
The Blue Angels’ quartet of coaches worked together like the Fab Four from Liverpool did a few years ago. Ryan was the energizer extraordinaire. George Banks was the pitching coach who kept things as smooth as pond water. Mike Mabry oversaw the batting cages and provided intermittent wisdom. And Mike Slawson did it all, hitting outfield fungoes, calling pitches during games and keeping the competitive fire burning at 105 degrees.
The 12U Blue Angels made all of NYO and beyond proud with their positive energy and great success. As they improved with each practice, each game and each week, the Blue Angels ultimately flew out on top – as champions! They earned their wings.