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Premier Girls Fastpitch continuing to grow in short time of existence

By Loren Kopff

HUNTINGTON BEACH-While the Amateur Softball Association will always be the leading outlet for softball in the United States, the Premier Girls Fastpitch is slowly becoming the more popular organization. And it hasn’t even been around for five years.

At the opening ceremonies at Huntington Beach’s Central Park this past Monday evening, co-founders Gary Haning and Dan Hay looked on to what will soon be the end of a fourth successful year of the PGF.

“We thought it would grow and it will grow more,” Haning said.

Indeed, the PGF has been growing. In 2010, there was only a 16-Under and 18-Under division playing for a national title with a total of 116 teams vying for the top hardware. Now, there are five different divisions and nearly 300 teams from across the nation descending upon Southern California.

When the PGF first came on the scene, many were skeptical about the future of the new organization and many wondered if it would ever survive against the more popular ASA. But when teams began to see what Haning and Hay, both longtime Southern California residents, were doing, teams began to shift towards qualifying for, and playing in a PGF National Championships tournament. So why did Haning and Hay decided to form the PGF? Haning suggested to the ASA five years ago of having a two-tier 18-Under division for their National Championships and they were rejected.

“My team and many other teams were very unhappy with how ASA had been run for a number of years,” Haning said. “We (and other teams) had suggested things to them numerous times and basically had been ignored. At that point we just decided to try to put in place some of the ideas we thought would be good for the sport.

“ASA will never go extinct,” Haning added. “They’re a huge organization. They are far, far bigger than ours. “As far as girls fastpitch goes, it’s not going away. It’s just that the more competitive teams; the more highly skilled teams are playing here now.”

In 2011, the PGF added a 14-Under division and last year, the field expanded to include a 12-Under age group. If that wasn’t enough, the PGF decided to have their dream of five years ago come true by including a second 18-Under division, known as the Platinum Division to go along with the Premier Division.

“When the cities of Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach let us have the fields for two weeks consecutively, that gave us the opportunity to expand,” Haning said. “The Platinum Division is built for teams that are from areas where softball is not that strong or from teams that are just forming.”

The championship games of the 14-Under and 16-Under divisions were televised on Comcast/Fox Sports West last week and the finals of the other three divisions will be televised as well including the 18-Under Premier Division on ESPNU.

As it relates to area interest, the Artesia Punishers have had a team compete in the PGF National Championships for the past three years. Last year, the 12-Under squad finished in a tie for 17th place out of 40 teams. In 2011, the 16-Under Punishers tied for 17th place out of 65 teams and in 2010, This year, the Artesia Punishers 18 Gold and 12-Under teams both qualified.

This year, the PGF started a regional program for the first time and will continue it for next year, Haning said. He also added that the PGF will start a recreational league/program next year.

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