Just playing ball
Don’t let age define your competition: Just ask Zoie Hesse.
This summer, Zoie competed for Nelson Quarries in the Iola Recreation Department Jr. Ponytail softball league. Despite being 10 years old, Hesse thrived in a league designated for 11-13 year olds.
Along with playing rec ball, Hesse also participated for the 10U Buck Commanders travel softball team based out of Fort Scott.
Zoie’s father, Bradley, took it upon himself to make sure Zoie and older brother Ashton fell in love with sports at a young age. Zoie has been playing softball since she was in T-ball.
Big brother Ashton deserves a lot of the credit for Zoie’s athleticism. The two have a bond through sports, and Ashton has worked to help Zoie improve.
“We pretty much do everything together,” Ashton said. “My dad told me to never take it easy on her, and make her earn what she gets. I’m always going full speed, and when she gets frustrated, I’m not letting her quit.”
The two can’t seem to get enough of playing ball. The pair plays in the yard throwing the ball around, or pitching to each other until one gets tired, then they reverse rolls.
Zoie and her brother appear to have an unbreakable bond. Even though he may deny it, Ashton contributes the on-field success to their father.
“He never took it easy on us, and is always pushing us to be active,” Ashton said. “Having someone like my dad has been really helpful. Without him, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Softball isn’t the only sport Zoie plays with her brother. The two are quite the pair of hoopers, which probably comes from their dad’s love of basketball. Even so, softball seems to reign supreme.
“I like hitting and getting on base,” Zoie said. “ And not getting out!”
This summer, Zoie played up a division for recreation softball because her age group is designated for Pigtail, which is machine-pitch only.
“This is her second straight year we have had to bump her up for rec ball,” her father said. “And next year she will be a third-year first year player in the Ponytail league.”
Rec ball wasn’t enough softball action for Zoie this summer. As a player on the Buck Commanders in Fort Scott, she traveled to compete against some of the top talent in her age group at tournaments in Kansas City.
Iola lacks a travel ball team with live pitching for Zoie’s age group. Currently, one is in the works and Zoie has already begun practicing with her teammates. The team does not have a name, but Zoie is excited to play with her friends from the area, and is looking forward to working out the details of the upcoming season. The new Iola team will start playing games this October.
“I want the jerseys to be blue and lime green,” Zoie emphasized.
Although she was playing in a travel ball league, Zoie said the competition wasn’t necessarily any stiffer.
“When I played at Fort Scott, the pitchers were slower,” Zoie said.
Zoie was also an all-star for the rec ball league, meaning she was one of the 12 best players in the league. Zoie also was a member of the Missouri-Kansas all-star team for her efforts playing with the Commanders. Players were selected from top travel ball teams from the two states. Zoie was one of four selected from the Commanders to participate, and she was awarded with a plaque for her efforts.
Bradley said that finding time to do other activities is tough with Zoie’s softball and Ashton’s baseball commitments taking up a majority of their time. Sports is fun, but a grind. With that said, the family does find time for other hobbies.
“We like to hang out at home, and play board games,” Hesse said. “We also like to watch movies and eat popcorn and candy.”
Though summer has been full of athletic challenges, in a couple of weeks Zoie will face a host of new challenges as she transitions from elementary to middle school.
“It is going to be hard moving in-between classes,” Zoie said. “If you are late, you get a strike, and if you get three strikes you have to go to detention.”
Entering middle school does have upsides as well. Zoie looks forward to checking out her locker and decorating it to ensure it is one-of-a-kind. As a fifth-grader, she will be at the bottom of the pecking order, while her brother will be at the top of the as an eighth-grader. A position of power you could say, that her brother enjoys.
“I’m going to tease her a little bit,” Ashton said. “I’ll make fun of her just a little bit, but I’m only messing with her.”