student plays serious ball
Wanda English Burnett, Editor
While many kids enjoy sports, few have a World Series
win under their belt at the age of 12 as does Sydney Keene of Osgood.
This summer the Keene family, Sydney, parents Todd and Julie, and
grandparents, Bob and Linda Gray of Versailles, traveled to Orlando,
Florida, where her team EMR 12U Fastpitch Softball, took home the
Coached by Tim Barrett of Aurora; Sarah Eggleston-Gilbert of North
Bend and Robin Spielman of Aurora, the team soared to an overall
season record of 73 wins and only four losses.
They have 9 out of 11 tournament wins including the State USSSA
Tournament and the USSSA World Series.
According to USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association)
website, EMR is currently ranked #1 12U Fastpitch team in the United
Sydney said, EMR is the best team Ive ever played for.
Winning the World Series was awesome. I hope we can do it again
Last September Tim Barrett, head coach for EMR called the Keenes
asking Sydney to try out for the team. They traveled to Pastime
Park in Harrison for a tryout where she was immediately offered
a spot on the team.
You might say Sydney was born with a ball in her hand, according
to her mother Julie. Sydney has had a ball in her hand since
she was a little girl, whether it be a softball, basketball, football,
or soccer ball. Julie said Sydney was about 3-years-old when
she was given her first glove. From that point on, Sydney
and her Dad were in the backyard throwing and have been doing so
I coached Sydney when she was in Pee Wee League at JCD, and
she would beg me to let her put on the catchers gear, but
I always refused! Todd commented. He said one day she already
had the gear on so he gave in and let her catch. He knew she was
good, but he needed her more on the pitchers mound. Years
later when she started playing select travel softball, her team
was short a catcher and she had to fill in. The rest is history.
From that point on, catching became her full time position...and
she loved it! Todd noted.
Julie said she always thought maybe Todd threw too hard to their
little girl, but she would get mad if he didnt!
Her dad taught her not to be afraid of the ball and it has paid
off for the Gold winning athlete.
The couple secured an official pitching rubber and home plate in
their backyard. The love of sports has created a very special father/daughter
bond. Obviously, Syd has natural athletic ability, Julie
noted, adding, but, I think the countless hours of playing
with her dad in the backyard has paid off.
What is the eighth graders favorite sport? Well, that depends
on what time of year it is! It really depends on the season!
Basketball is my favorite sport in the winter and softball is my
favorite sport in the summer! Sydney told The Versailles Republican.
Sydney plays soccer, basketball and softball at Jac-Cen-Del. Shes
also a captain on the jr. high coed soccer team, which plays today,
August 27 against Southwestern.
For the EMR team Sydney is the catcher and calls all the pitches.
Her mother noted at this level, pitching and catching can make or
break the team, with the average pitch speed being around 55 miles
While it does take a lot of time and devotion to the sport, Sydneys
parents are behind her 100%. Although they will get a little break
and a few celebrations, they are already planning for the 2010 season.
I think there are three or four tournaments scheduled through
October and then they are off in November and December, noted
Julie. She said practice will resume in January with the 2010 season
officially kicking off in March.
When the Keenes were asked if it was nerve wracking to sit in the
stands, they replied, Absolutely! Julie said, I
sit and Todd roams. Their entire summer has been all about
softball. You spend so much time with the other kids and parents
from the team that you almost become family, Julie told The
Versailles Republican. She said one of the biggest blessings is
the friendships that Sydney has developed with the other kids from
various teams. The experiences that this sport has afforded
her include life lessons and friendships that far outweigh any trophy
on the mantle, her mother shared.
Julie shared one experience where Sydney was playing hard in 90
degree weather. She caught all six innings and was simply struggling
to breathe by the end of it. In the midst of it all, she got
nailed in the shoulder by a wild pitch. That was probably the hardest
for us as parents because we could see her struggling, Julie
noted. But, when her coach asked her if she needed a break, her
mother said Sydney looked at him like he was crazy and continued
Its practice, practice, practice, but Sydney doesnt
mind. She lives for the moment that practice makes perfect. Shes
also a typical near-teen girl who loves the outdoors, hanging out
with friends, reading books (currently reading the Twilight series)
and watching movies. Her favorite subject in school is US History.
Sydney is fortunate to play with a group of talented young
athletes. They constantly push each other to do better and never
fail to support one another, according to Julie. She said
the camaraderie in the dugout is amazing and is also expected from
the coaching staff.
About her coach, Sydney says, Coach Tim is great. He makes
us work hard, but we always manage to have fun, too. From
the beginning Barrett has emphasized that above all else, family,
school, and church has to be the number one priority for the girls.
While Sydneys official number is 4, she is number 1 to her
family and friends who follow her amazing endeavors. Julie
and I are so proud of all she has accomplished. Its bittersweet,
because its flying by so fast, Todd concluded.
Julie said Sydney has had tremendous support throughout the 2009
season. Julies parents, Bob and Linda Gray, went to Florida
to see her receive her Gold Medal. During the season when they couldnt
be at the games, Julie said her dad and her would text back and
forth so they could keep up with what was going on. Todays
technology allowed them to virtually be at the game and give words
of encouragement to their granddaughter from miles away. Sydneys
great aunt and uncle Mary Ann and CT (Sugo) Castner were big fans,
too, supporting her at tournaments and burning up the cell phone
to get the status, noted Julie.
Ila Keene, Sydneys grandmother passed away in February of
2008. She was affectionately known to Sydney as Mam Mam. After they
won the World Series, Sydney turned to her Dad and said, Mam
Mam would have loved this! Julie says she believes she (Mam
Mam) was up there cheering for her the whole time!
Its not a one person effort and the Keenes would be quick
to tell you that. It takes the whole team pulling together. Sydneys
teammates are: Ellen Barrett, Jessie Benton, Hannah Rose, Tara Bailey,
Tori Heffelfinger, and Alexa Lambrinides all from the Aurora area.
The rest of the team are from Ohio and include: Tara Trainer, Mackenzie
Wullenweber, Peyton Callihan, Brooke Dendler, Ashley Rains and Hailey
Above: Sydney Keene of Osgood, is most comfortable with
a glove and ball in her hands. She was part of a team that
just won the World Series in Orlando, Florida, this summer.
Below: The EMR 12U Fastpitch Softball team is pictured back
row from left: Coach Sarah Gilbert, Tori Heffelfinger, Hannah
Rose, Tara Trainer, Coach Tim Barrett, Ashley Rains, Ellen
Barrett, Brooke Dendler and Coach Robin Spielman. Front
row from left: Jessica Benton, Mackenzie Wullenweber, Hailey
Curtis, Peyton Callihan, Sydney Keene, Alexa Lambrinides
and Tara Bailey. The team won the Gold at the World Series
in Orlando, Florida this summer.