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Mon, Oct. 21

Cottonwood church league has fun for everyone

Mark Soto, coach of Y.E.S. the ARC gets ready to pitch in Friday’s game vs Corner Stone.  Y.E.S the ARC is a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. The team plays in the Cottonwood Church Softball league. Soto said it’s great for the team, something they really enjoy. VVN Derek Evans

Mark Soto, coach of Y.E.S. the ARC gets ready to pitch in Friday’s game vs Corner Stone. Y.E.S the ARC is a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. The team plays in the Cottonwood Church Softball league. Soto said it’s great for the team, something they really enjoy. VVN Derek Evans

COTTONWOOD--In addition to the Cottonwood Recreational men's and women's leagues, there has also been the Cottonwood Church softball league this year.

The league is made of teams from different churches around the area.

Jack Teel, recreation coordinator for sports and special events for Cottonwood Recreation Center said it's been a good season for the league as whole.

"The Church League has been great," Teel said. "A lot of really fun people going out there just to play," Teel said.

He said some teams treat different.

"There is a little bit of competitive difference between the teams."

He said the focus of the church league is a little different than the other two.

"The focus of this league is really just getting out there and having a good time with the community who goes to your church," Teel said. "It's a little bit different pace, a little bit different speed than normal leagues would be."

The church league is made of churches from around from the Verde Valley.

"We'd love to get more, we'd love branch out," Teel said. "We'd love to get a couple of Sedona teams in here. We had some interest from some Camp Verde teams, but unfortunately they weren't able to make the deadline. They're just local community churches that come out and just play ball."

The church leagues teams are all co-ed. Each team had to pay a one-time fee of $150. The church league had been a part of Cottonwood, but then went on a two-year hiatus. This year is the first year it's been back.

Teel said he thinks the church league is now here to stay.

"I do think we have put out a good product that the teams are interested in coming out for," he said. "I think it will keep growing."

In the men's and women's leagues, every at bat starts out at one ball and one strike. The same goes for the Church League.

"It helps speed the game up and it's a hitters' game," Teel said. "It kind of forces the offense to hit. You start out with one strike so your chances of getting that walk are a little bit smaller. It makes you swing the bat and play the game."

Teel said that so far Verde Valley Christian church I has been the most competitive team. Unlike the men's and women's leagues, there won't be a tournament.

"We talked about doing it in the beginning, but unfortunately because we had a rain out it pushed it back too far," Teel said.

On Friday, the teams Corner Stone and Y.E.S The ARC played. The league means a lot for Y.E.S the ARC. The team comes from the center for adults with disabilities.

After the game, coach Mark Soto explained what the team and the center is all about.

"We serve adults with developmental disabilities," Soto said. "We have a day program and a recreational program. Our recreational program does a lot of great things. The churches really help us out. For how much fun they have, it's unreal. It's really refreshing. It's nice to see the community react in such a great way. It's a really good thing."

Y.E.S the ARC day program is located at 427 S Willard St. In addition to coaching the team, Soto works at the center.

"I've been there for going on six years," he said. "I'm in the human resources and just recently I became the program coordinator. Our recreation program has just been one of the things that is really good."

Soto said the team practices every Tuesday.

"We try to learn the game and get further with our skills," he said.

Soto said there is 23 players on the team out of 60 adults who attend the center.

"It's a really great turnout," Soto said. "They have so much fun. It's one of the things they love so much. A lot of people sing up, a lot of people come out and play and take it pretty seriously."

Soto said that Friday's game was dedicated to player Shelly Crandall, whose father had recently passed away.

One of the players on Corner Stone is Creighton Kim. Kim said he enjoys his teammates.

"We have a great group of people," he said. "Most of them are pretty new. Everyone is just having a lot of fun, keeping it relax."

Kim said the league has changed it a little bit over the years.

"It used to be really competitive," Kim said. "We always had championships. It doesn't really matter to me but I wish there was a tournament this year for the teams that are more competitive."

Kim said this year the church league has the same fun things it had in the past.

"The comradery and the fellowship," he said. "There will always be newer people in the church, you get to fellowship with them and get to know those families a lot more in a different environment."

Kim said it was great to play YES the Arc.

"It humbles you," he said. "I remember times of always playing against them. I still remember half the group. It's been about five or six years since I've played. It's kind of cool."

Church League season will continue until the middle of July.

Follow Sports Reporter Derek Evans on Twitter @DerekEvans20.

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