German softball club travels to PTC for love of game

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The German softball club the Freising Grizzlies spent part of their summer training in Peachtree City and playing in a tournament last weekend before returning home. Above, the team poses with one of their local opponents before a game at Meade Field. (Photos by Dirk Steffen)

23Peachtree City reached across international borders recently, welcoming a team of softball players from Germany into the community. The Freising Grizzlies, one of the oldest baseball and softball clubs in Germany, brought of group of girls, coaches, and chaperones to the county from August 10 to 21 for advanced softball training, tournament play against teams from around the southeast, and a bit of international exploration.
Peachtree City honored the girls at their most recent city council meeting, along with Mike and Beth Pullias, who helped host and coach the team. They noted that in Germany it is incredibly hard to play a sport that can require drives of five and six hours just to play.
“If you are interested in softball in Germany, it is a challenge to say the least due to its limited popularity,” said Mike Pullias, citing long drives, difficulty finding equipment and facilities, and impossible fundraising as hurdles in a country less familiar with the sport. “Much of that can be overcome with perseverance, however the accessibility to training, specialists, and developmental tools as rare as they are critical to having a prosperous program. After a lot of saving money, sparse fundraising, and excessive planning, they are spending their vacation sweating in the Georgia sun to improve their skills in the game they love.”
When the team was looking for a place in America to train, Pullias steered them towards Peachtree City.
“I told them forget California, Texas, and Florida. The best place in the world is Peachtree City,” he said. “They certainly could have gone anywhere. I think Peachtree City has a great mix of things to do, abundant softball resources, and a community which always seems to come through when lending a helping hand.”
The girls were met with open arms in Peachtree City by so many who gave of their own time to offer resources and hands-on instruction.
“Almost everyone who can help has helped,” beamed Pullias. “John Powers at All Star Baseball & Softball has been ridiculous, providing large equipment and gear donations, lending golf carts, arranging the tournament, arranging a visit with the Emory softball staff, free use of his facility, and so on. Wolf and Dee Dee Ressl actually gave the team their house to live in for the entire week if you can believe it.  Home Plate, Emory University, Stacey Dixon-Dotson of Elite Sports, Peachtree City Girls Softball Association, and Peachtree City itself are all runner-ups who have gone above and beyond for the team. Local restaurants have donated food and people have generally treated the team with incredible hospitality.
“In my opinion, we are redefining what they think of the USA and people in general in the most positive way possible.”
The players loved their time in Peachtree City, both on and off the diamond.
“Of course all of us more than enjoyed the opportunity to work on our softball skills, improve our techniques, develop our mental game, and grow as a team, but the best part for me was feeling the kind of culture on and off the softball field,” said Chiara Steffen, a shortstop for the Grizzlies. “Wherever we went, people greeted us nicely, everyone was happy to help us when we got lost on the golf cart trails, and all the coaches took their time to work with us and gave us the feeling that they love what they do. I really admire that passion for the game, and I think all of us really appreciate how much effort everyone put into making our trip work and giving us the chance to improve as players and people.”

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About

Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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