The Old Town 16U softball team plays a game each Wednesday night. It plays three tournaments a year. It costs $80 for a player to join, and there are no cuts.

And depending on how the 10-team state 16U tournament shapes out, Old Town could end up playing the Maine Thunder, which charges hundreds of dollars per player, plays showcase tournaments nearly every weekend and often leaves the state for those competitions.

In a way, the 16U tournament sums up the wide range of USA softball — formerly ASA softball — which is essentially an equivalent to AAU baseball. There’s an avenue for everyone, from the players willing to dedicate themselves to the sport, to the ones who look for a less demanding and time-consuming way to play during the summer.

Old Town, coach Troy Sheehan said, is an example of a team offering the latter.

It’s not a high commitment or a high cost, or anything like that. It’s just about coming out and having some fun, getting some extra reps during the summertime,” he said. “We have some girls who are very capable of playing at that level, but because of work commitments and things like that it fits their schedule better. It works out better for them and their families.”

The Portland-based Thunder are an example of the more serious and intense side, but so are the Messalonskee Area Youth Softball Association Eagles, who are largely made up of Messalonskee High School players, but who nonetheless travel throughout the region for showcases, spending weekend after weekend on the road.


“We are trying to play at that next level,” MAYSA player Brooke Martin said. “It can be tough for some people, but for all of us, we enjoy it. We’ve done it since we were 8-years-old. It’s what we want to do, it’s where we want to be. We want to be on the field on Sunday and all weekend.”

Martin’s coach, Bob Dube, said that what all teams have in common is a desire to improve at the sport — particularly at the 16U-18U level, where the focus is less on getting into the game and more on realizing goals, whether they be getting better for the high school team, getting the attention of recruiters or polishing their skills to prepare for the college level.

“I think the talent level is actually pretty comparable across most of the teams,” he said. “When you get up to the 16U, 18U level, you’ve probably got some teams that are the high school teams that are looking to stick together and play more throughout the summer, and you probably have the travel teams that will do the showcases.”

The intensity differs with each team, but it’s a commitment nonetheless.

“It’s hard, it’s a very hard commitment for the families and for the girls,” Dube said. “You miss parts of your summer, you’ve got practice during the week, your commitment is to playing in tournaments during the weekend, however many tournaments that you want to play. … When you’re putting all that into it, people are just looking to get better, love the game and enjoy it.”

Devin Benson, who coaches the Warriors team based out of Oxford Hills, said travel softball has grown from an option a select few players pursued to one most of them sign up for.


I think there are a lot more girls playing travel ball now, the ASA, and less playing the town ball,” he said. “It’s harder for the towns now to field teams, and I think that’s what it is. I think most of the girls are playing travel ball. There are more and more coming to that side of the spectrum.”

Warriors player Christa Allen agreed.

“It’s grown a lot since I started,” she said. “When I started it was only a couple of people on certain teams that wanted to get the extra work in, so they were playing travel ball. And now this team is pretty much our whole school JV team.

It’s kind of like a step-up from school ball, from my experience. I feel like it gets you more prepared for going on with softball in the future.”

One of the Old Town players, Teagan Blackie, saw both ends of the travel team spectrum. In past years, she played for the more competitive Maine Explosion and Sluggers teams. This year, however, wanting to play again with friends before her senior year but not wanting to give up her part-time job, she looked for a less demanding route.

I wanted to still play with all my friends and still have the opportunity to play softball over the summer, but I didn’t want to always (be saying) ‘Oh, I’m going to Rhode Island this weekend, Massachusetts next weekend,’ ” she said. “I didn’t want to always have to be like that. I do it more or less for the enjoyment of the sport and the atmosphere it brings.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.