Lone Girl Thrives On Baseball Team

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Candice Johnson, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Rim Country Middle School, is not the least bit intimidated about being the only girl on the Maverick baseball team.

"It's cool," she said. "The boys treat me really nice."

Her teammate, eighth-grader Porter Wilbanks, is glad she's part of the squad.

"She's a good player," he said. "It's the same as having a regular guy."

Johnson decided to try out for the team about a month ago after her family moved from Peoria to Payson.

She heard rumors the school was going to field an inaugural baseball team and tryouts were open to all RCMS students.

"I had nothing going on, so I figured ‘why not.'" she said.

Her efforts in the tryouts were impressive enough to earn her a spot on the team at second base.

Johnson is enjoying her first stint at playing baseball, but her first love is fast-pitch softball. She's a two-year member of the Glendale-based Americans' team that competes in USSSA 14-years-and-under girls state and national competition. She plays mostly second base and has built a reputation for swinging a solid bat from her fifth-place slot in the lineup.

Last weekend, the Americans won the championship of a USSSA qualifying tournament in Tucson. The team is now eligible to participate in the national tournament next August in Orlando, Fla.

Johnson said she is looking forward to participating on the national stage in Florida. But before that becomes a reality, her goal is to help the Maverick team turn in a successful inaugural campaign.

Switching from softball to baseball play has required only a few adjustments.

"In softball, the pitching is faster," she said.

The RCMS team currently sports a 2-1 record and was in action yesterday (Thursday) against Cottonwood on the PHS field. (Results not available at press time).

Umpires needed

Looking for a few extra dollars to supplement your income?

If so, a good option might be part-time work as a Payson Little League baseball umpire.

For those interested, an organizational meeting will be held at 7 p.m. March 27 at the Payson Library.

A portion of the evening will be dedicated to a training program for umpires. Follow-up training sessions also will be held.

A typical working evening for umpires could begin about 4:30 p.m. Games continue until about 9:30 p.m.

The season begins April 26 and continues until June 20. Games are played on weekday evenings only.

Currently, about nine umpires are ready for the season but league officials would like to have at least six more on the roster.

Candidates do not have to be certified, but should have a working knowledge of the sport.

High school students are eligible to apply.

Minor league umpires receive $15 per game. Major umpires earn $18 a game. Senior league umpires who work behind the plate earn $25 per game. Those who work the field are paid $22.

For more information, call Tracy Purtee at 478-4337.

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