The local softball season will step up to the plate with a good sense of optimism for the 2019-2020 summer, starting tomorrow with the Whanganui Softball Association hosting a 'Give it a Go' day at Puriri St Ballpark.
Beginning with registration at 10.30am, there will be two hours of pick up games and skill sessions of both teeball and softball for youngsters to try out the sport, followed by two adult exhibition games to watch in the afternoon.
A sausage sizzle and spot prizes will also be highlights of the day.
"It's going to be pretty full noise," said association secretary Lindsay Edwards.
It is likely there will be three adult clubs committing to play in the Manawatu Softball Association grades this year, with competition matches starting next weekend.
The Athletic club is fielding a women's team, who tomorrow are playing a preseason match with Feilding at 1.30pm, as well as an Athletic men's team, who will take on the Castlecliff Club Mustangs at 3pm.
The Mustangs squad was formed last year to enter the Manawatu Senior Men's Reserve Grade, where they finished fourth.
Team manager Layce Madams said while some of their younger players have transferred to clubs in Palmerston North for more opportunities, the core of last year's squad is still there – specifically the Hollis family in Ben, Josh and Jake.
The club also hosted a successful Mustangs Cup tournament in early January this year, which featured teams from the Mustangs, Palmerston North, Wellington, Hutt Valley, Kapiti and composite squads.
Madams said after such positive feedback from the visiting clubs, they will look to run the two-day event again this season.
The top side in town remains the Ezi Finance Wanganui Braves, who are again playing in the Manawatu Senior Men's Premier grade, which should have 6-7 teams.
Player-coach Shane Foster said the squad will miss their franchise pitcher from last season in Brad Worsley, who has transferred to Porirua City United.
"He wants to have one more crack at the Black Sox. After that, he might return home."
In addition, Toby Rison has family commitments, but the team has picked up Palmerston North Raiders pitcher Shaun Terry, coming back home.
While the Braves team has been active in recent seasons, the actual club they represent has been in recess, so on Sunday Foster has organised an official AGM to get the organisation activated and elect people to specific roles.
"I want to get a committee back up and running, as an incorporated society, because that's what we are," said Foster.
The club can also update their constitution, as getting back into operation means they can formally apply for fundraising grants to cover equipment and travel expenses.
The other delicate issue both the Braves and the Mustangs have been working towards is negotiating with Manawatu Softball to allow them to play home Premier and Premier Reserve games on their skin diamond during the season.
Foster said the Braves now have an official delegate who can attend the Manawatu association's meetings, which he previously could not do due to work commitments.
"Hopefully his voice might be a bit better than me emailing all the time."
Having to prepare a diamond for a national age grade tournament next year, Manawatu plans to play their club games on grass fields, compared to the Whanganui Ballpark having full diamonds.
As well as the Mustangs Cup last season, there was the Wanganui Softball Association Reserve Cup between the two Mustangs club teams, while the Braves and Mustangs met in a exhibition game to showcase local adult derby matches for the first time in a decade.
Edwards said they are considering plans for a midweek cup competition this season between Athletic, Mustangs and the Braves, but the lobbying will continue to allow the teams to host Manawatu regular season fixtures.
"I think it will happen, we're getting closer towards that."