JENISON, Mich. — The X Factor Sports Trainng 9u softball team certainly had a memorable summer.
"I think the biggest misconception about travel ball is it's not just softball," explained X Factor owner and softball coach, JR Schnick, "the team bonding off of the field is incredible."
The Michigan X Factor 9u team was able to play 66 games this summer, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic effecting the schedule.
"It was very interesting because things were really weird with coronavirus," said ten-year-old first baseman and pitcher, Emmy Poll, "but I'm glad it worked out and we got to play."
"It was pretty crazy, playing a lot of softball and practices, it was really fun," added ten-year-old second baseman and pitcher, Lilah Bromley.
With the restrictions in the state of Michigan throughout the summer, the team had to travel around the Midwest for tournaments, playing in Ohio, Indiana and even Iowa.
"Obviously, we had a lot of tournaments in Michigan that got canceled," Schnick added, "so, on the fly, we called some parent meetings and said, 'hey, I can find tournaments here and there, but we'll have to be in hotels and living out of suit cases for the next two months,' and every parents was on board."
And the girls enjoyed the travel as well.
"It was fun but sometimes we had to travel pretty far," Poll added, "but it was fun staying in hotels and getting to play almost every day."
The team comes from all over West Michigan, including seven different school districts, but most of the girls have played together for three years.
"I didn't know anyone except for one person when I joined the team," Bromley said, "and now we're all best friends."
To finish the season, X Factor played the number one ranked 9u softball team in the country out of Ohio and be3at them, after trailing 2-0 throughout the game.
"In the fifth inning, we came back and we were up 8-2, we ended up beating them," smiled Bromley.
The team played up an age group, in several 10u tournaments during the summer, but finished unbeaten in 9u play. In fact, the United States Specialty Sports Assocation (USSSA) ranked X Factor as the top 9u team, not only in the state of Michigan, but nationally as well.
"A lot of it is on the field," Schnick added, "but I think it's the off the field memories they'll make. They'll be 24 years old and say, 'I'm still friends with who was on this team.'"
The girls now get to show off their gold rings for winning those championships, and it's something they'll never forget.
"I think I'll remember the team and coaches the most," Poll said, "and how we all stuck together and became good friends."