The strange sight of a Payson team decked out in green uniforms rather that the traditional purple and gold caught some boosters by surprise March 25 at Rumsey Park where the Monsoon 14-years-and under fast pitch softball team played host to the Camp Verde Juggernauts.
Players from Winslow, Lakeside, Holbrook and Payson make up the Monsoon traveling team that was opening the season in an exhibition clash against visiting CV.
Monsoon kicks off the season in earnest March 31 and April 1 in a United States Sports Specialty Association (USSSA) tournament to be played in the Valley. Monsoon’s 2012 schedule consists of 10 tournaments, mostly to be played in the Valley.
In addition, the team will also compete on the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) youth circuit. USSSA and ASA are the two largest fast pitch-sanctioning bodies in Arizona.
Karlie Smith, Jewel Johnson, Rachel Spooner and Becky Bauer represent Payson on the Monsoon.
In Sunday’s scrimmage, Johnson — a fireballing lefthander — started on the hill, eventually giving way to Smith.
At the conclusion of the high school season, McKenna Wells is expected to become the fifth Payson player on Monsoon.
“All of these girls started in Little League four years ago,” said team spokesperson Felicia Moore.
It was in 2008 that Payson fielded its first-ever girls fast-pitch Little League teams.
At the time, organizers agreed the program was being jump started to allow the young girls to hone their skills in the more competitive fast pitch rather than play in the town recreation slow pitch league, which previously was the only option for girls.
Curtis Johnson, former Lady Longhorn and Rim Country Middle School Maverick head coach, coaches Monsoon along with his daughter, Candice, a former PHS pitching and infielder standout, who after leaving Payson went on to star in softball at Sul Ross State University in Texas.
In 2010, she was named the university’s Female Athlete of the Year.
Brandon Moore, a frequent volunteer coach in several youth sports, including PHS football, is also on the Monsoon staff.
Felicia Moore anticipates Monsoon will move in September to 16-years-and-under age division play in both USSSA and ASA.