LAKEWOOD RANCH — Twelve-year-old Angela Baldino wants to perform to the best of her ability every time she steps onto the field.
But, this fall, the right fielder’s drive and determination has reached new heights. The Haile Middle School sixth-grader is not only in the middle of her first softball season, but she also is a part of the Miss Manatee Softball Observer Team — an honor she and her teammates don’t take lightly.
“It means a lot,” Angela says. “You have to be determined on this team because you always want to play well.”
Teammate Madison Schaefer, 11, agrees.
“It means a lot,” Madison says. “This is the first year since I started playing eight years ago that I’ve been on the (Observer team). I always wanted to play for the newspaper.”
For as long as she can remember, Madison would grab the newspaper from her father, Mike, every fall and spring and immediately turn to the sports section.
“There would always be one or two girls who would be featured,” Madison says. “I wanted to go look at it. I love sports, and I would always watch them.”
Madison had never been a part of an Observer softball team until three months ago when her father told her dream of playing for the newspaper was finally coming true.
“I was amazed,” Madison says.
Madison and Angela donned their Observer softball uniforms for the first time Sept. 25 and will prepare to take the field in their final regular season game Dec. 1 versus Mullets Aluminum before preparing for the playoffs. The team is 2-10 in the season, but coach Mike Schaeffer and the players agree the experience and the friendships they’ve made have become more important than overall records.
“We’re very energetic,” Madison says. “We all love the sport and we’re all into the game. We’re kind of like sisters. We really know each other and stick together.
“They’ve all got very different personalities, but they all blend well together,” Schaeffer says. “They’re a fun-loving group and they’re doing well — we’re just missing it. Our goal is use the season as a learning period, so we’ll be ready when the playoffs start in December.
“We just want them to continue to learn and build on everything we’ve experienced so far, and have a lot of fun playing softball,” Schaeffer says.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
Click here to view a player card of each girl.