Canby’s Real-Life ‘Rockford Peaches’ Finish First in Tourney

The Canby Rebels 10U softball team took home first place in their bracket of the NAFA Halloween Scream Tournament this weekend, defeating the Showtime Navy from Battleground, Wash., 10 to 8 — but that’s not the most impressive part.

They did it all while rocking awesome unis inspired by the Rockford Peaches of history and the 1992 hit film A League of Their Own.

Head coach James Heckathorn said the team’s homage to the Peaches and the other athletes of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League has come as part of a series of lessons about the women of Cooperstown who inspired the film and broke barriers for women in professional sports.

“I loved learning about the history of girls playing baseball because they made softball,” said one of the players, Brooklyn Brady, age 9. “They showed the boys that girls can play too. I think I could play in a dress for the whole season, it was fun!”

“I felt lucky to be on this team and to be able to dress up with my teammates and spend time with them learning about all of these amazing girl baseball players,” agreed Presley Ricksger, also 9. “I want to beat Sophie Kurys’s stolen base record.”

Nicknamed the “Flint Flash” (she was originally from Flint, Mich.) and “Tina Cobb” (a play on fellow base-path bandit Ty Cobb), Kurys was a four-time AAGPBL All-Star and the league’s all-time leader in stolen bases, as well as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Kurys was virtually unstoppable once she got on base — stealing at least one base 80% of the time. Her record of 201 stolen bases in a single season has never been touched — not even by the legendary Rickey Henderson, who holds the Major League Baseball record of 130.

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But hey — records were meant to be broken, right? We’re pulling for you, Presley.

“I love that the girls never gave up,” said Abby Morrow, age 10, of the Rockford Peaches. “Even when there were no fans.”

The Canby Rebels faced a similar challenge — though for very different reasons. Strict crowd limits were in effect due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic, and the girls had to observe strict mask guidelines and other restrictions implemented by the NAFA.

Ten-year-old Maddy Marsh said she especially liked the “charm school” experience Coach Heckathorn and assistant coach Lindsay Monk organized for the girls in downtown Canby last week, to demonstrate the etiquette, dress and make-up rules the real-life AAGPBL athletes were expected to follow.

“It was a fun experience spending time with my team,” said March. “Dressing up as the Rockford Peaches was really inspiring, and then to win the tournament as the Rockford Peaches was the best!”

Reflecting on the experience, Coach Heckathorn — or “Coach James,” as he prefers — said that coaching youth sports is more than just teaching how to swing and catch; it’s also about teaching life lessons.

“That’s a responsibility both Coach Monk and I take to heart,” he said. “Giving these girls opportunities to make memories that will last a lifetime and something positive to look back on when they’re asked about Covid and 2020. We’ve been pretty lucky to get to play and I hope to see more kids getting back to sports soon.”

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