Jul. 1—NORTH MANKATO — Coach Joe Daggett put an idea into his girls fastpitch softball team: become better players and better leaders.
The response from the players has been impressive.
"We've been working on a lot of things on the diamond," Daggett said. "We've also been working on leadership and being a good teammate and how that translates off the field.
"When teams compete, it creates bonding, and that's hard to replicate off the field. This gives the kids a different perspective."
The Wisconsin Outlawz Red, a 12-under fastpitch softball team from Waterloo, Wisconsin, is in town for the Peppers Classic, a tournament that will attract 92 teams from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada in 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U brackets.
The Outlawz have been coming to Mankato for the last few years, but this time, there was some community service to go along with the softball. For an hour Thursday, 11 players spent time packing meals with Feeding Our Communities Partners, a nonprofit organization that aims to solve youth hunger locally.
The kids packed a weekend's worth of meals for about 1,000 area kids.
"We're a team that likes to support everyone," catcher Emma Norton said. "Even if we're competing against another team, we want to show support. We want to show support for people running the tournament and support the officials. We appreciate everyone that is helping to run the tournament."
Daggett said that there is a similar nonprofit as Feeding Our Communities Partners in Wisconsin so that's where the idea started.
Once he mentioned it to his team, the girls took off with it.
In addition to the community service, the team raised more than $1,300 to donate to the Mankato organization.
Norton said that girls raised the money through soliciting family and friends.
"We knew there would be people who wanted to support us and the Mankato community," Norton said. "Each player has done their part. It's very important that we help others in need."
Daggett said the coaches came up with the fundraising idea, but he gives all the credit to the players for their enthusiasm and drive.
"It's all about the girls," Daggett said. "They get to a play a game, but this is a way to use their skills to give back to the community.
"You can hear the team talk about it when they're at practice. They're proud of what they're doing, and they have a greater understanding of the impact they can make. It's pretty special."
You can follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.