DYER | When Frankie Blaize was in the process of forming a girls softball team for the sprouting town of Dyer, she leaned on an experienced coach for advice.
"I asked him what to do if the girls start crying after a loss," Blaize related. "He told me the best way to prevent that was to make sure that we won."
Winning soon became traditional for the all-star teams representing the Dyer Girls Softball League, which celebrated the start of its 50th season with an opening-day parade April 27 that cut through the heart of the Northgate subdivision before rolling into the league's long-time home at Northgate Park.
League matriarch Blaize as well as the league's original players were honored during the opening-day ceremonies held within the park's Field No. 2.
"It's wonderful that this league has remained strong for so long," said Blaize, who still lives in Dyer. "The parents and volunteers who have helped make it that way have always been there for the kids."
One of the originals was Blaize's daughter, Patti, who was the type of emotional player Blaize was concerned about.
"I remember the first time I was taken out of the game as a pitcher, and how I cried in the dugout," Patti Komara said, "but I also remember going to Dairy Queen after a win, the crazy cheers we made up and shouted from the dugout ... the parties and sleep-overs with teammates."
And the U.G.S.I. Senior Division state championship, which Dyer won in 1976. Patti was a member of that team, and her husband — future Lake Central head football coach Bob Komara — was one of the coaches.
Despite the omnipresence of elite travel softball teams, Dyer Girls Softball League president Mike McManus believes the league will remain viable for years to come.
"During the economic times of today, we remain an inexpensive option for a lot of families," McManus said. "I know there are some people who are willing to spend $1,500 or $2,000 a year for their kids to play softball. I'm not saying that's a bad thing if they want their kids to be trained by professionals.
"Here, all our coaches are volunteers. We try to provide a safe, wholesome environment for the kids."