Twenty-four former Grove High School softball players enjoyed a few hours of fun and reminiscing on Friday, Aug. 4, during the first alumni game.

Current Grove head coach Jeremy Collins was pleased with the turnout, not only from the participants, but from the spectators, in what was a near-capacity crowd.

“Just having people come back was great,” Collins said afterwards. “There were people here I didn’t know that showed up, not only to play, but to watch as well.

“Earlier in the day I had 15 or 16 confirmed and then as they started walking up I’m seeing kids that I even coached, and as I’m looking in the stands I’m thinking we haven’t had this many people here since a playoff game four years ago. It was a great turnout and I was very surprised by it.

“I think this can maybe lead to a little bit more support for the softball program. This was a big step in that direction.”

The influence of the former players on Collins’ left a strong impression as well.

“We talked about that after our scrimmages,” he said. “I told them these people are coming back because they were a part of this at one point in time and we’re trying to get them here to support you and we want you guys to be visible and interact with them.

"We had our current girls umpiring and we used some of them as runners on the bases. Just to interact with them and try to get to know those people and maybe even listen to some of the stories they had to tell when they played was a great experience for all.”

The former players who participated included: Tonya Blaylock (1997 graduate); Kelli Keaton and Jen Sullivan (1998); Leslie Prather, Susie Sanders and Candi Petty (1999); Stormy Deaton and Lacey Crittenden (2002); A.J. Janzen (2004); April Johnston (2005); Lauren Iverson and Haley Deaton (2007); Shandi Crossley (2009); Megan White (2010); Katelin Threet, Shae Scott and Gregorye Epperson (2011); Dre Gonzales (2012); Ashleigh Tramel and Jessi Walker (2013); Emilee Iverson and Mason Jeffries (2014); Ciera Christy (2015); and Kai Redus (2016).

Collins said the alumni game is definitely something he will continue going forward with next year and beyond.

“It’s important to the program to have this,” he said. “It helps bring prestige and it’s also a big step to get the community involved in the program. The first year is always a learning experience so we will figure out a way to make it even better for next year.”

Of the 24 participants, 11 were members of Lady Red state championship teams – from the 1996, 2000 and 2012 teams – Christy, Emilee Iverson, Prather, Crittenden, Sanders, Petty, Jeffries, Tramel, Walker, Stormy Deaton and Janzen.