Baseball is big in Westport. Our Little League team reached the national championship. Staples has won state titles. All around town, are diamonds are forever filled.
Fast-pitch softball may not get as much publicity. But it’s thriving too.
There is a dedicated softball community, and a decorated history as well.
Last, night, Steve Axthelm — one of its driving forces for more than 2 decades — was honored.
The site was appropriate: Meyer Field. It’s named for Bill Meyer — the father of Westport softball — and Axthelm has picked up where Meyer left off.
Axthelm — who is also a member of Westport’s Parks & Recreation Commission — has spent more than 20 years as head of Westport Softball. He was honored at a ceremony before the Little League Majors championship game, complete with a sign that will hang next to the many championship banners won under his leadership.
Axthelm was introduced to competitive softball like many Westport dads: through his children. But unlike many parent volunteers, he did not stop when his kids’ playing days were over. He continued to lead the program, advocatint for funding and access on behalf of Westport’s youth softball players.
His efforts resulted in 7 district, 2 divisional, 4 sectional and 4 state championships.
Some of the players from those dominant youth teams led Staples to a successful season this year, advancing to the FCIAC semifinals and the state quarterfinals. They fell to archrivals Fairfield Ludlowe in both tournaments.
Axthelm says, “I’m proud to have run a program dedicated to 2 sometimes conflicting missions: give girls the skills to compete at a high level and prepare them to play at Staples (in a few cases, beyond), while also keep as many girls as possible, regardless of skill level, until they age out.
“Studies have shown that girls involved in youth sports are less likely to engage in risky behavior as they grow up. We designed the program to give every girl the confidence to play and enjoy it.”
“Ax” and his wife are headed south for a warm weather retirement. But every June — as Westport begins another softball title run — he’ll be thinking of the town where for so many years, he made his indelible mark.
(Hat tip: Rob Simmelkjaer)