Local parents starting travel softball program in Polk County

A group of local parents think it’s time Polk County had a travel softball program – so they’re starting one.

The WNC Diamond Outlaws hope to begin play in May with at least one team and possibly three, depending upon local interest. Former college coach Michael Charlton will lead one of the teams and is helping to get the organization going.

The group has scheduled an information meeting for potential players and their families at the Polk County Public Library on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. The group is looking to offer teams for girls ages 9-14.

“I always had the intention of creating a travel ball program where kids would have the opportunity to grow and learn about the sport,” said Charlton, who has been a head coach at the middle school, high school and college levels.

“This past fall my daughter played rec ball for Hendersonville Youth Softball. That’s where I met Kelly Wiggen. We wanted to provide an opportunity for our daughters to continue learning the game while having an opportunity to compete. Together with the help of Natasha Schade, we chose Polk County because the opportunity to grow and teach the sport.

“From our understanding there was nothing offered by the way of travel ball for the young ladies in Polk County. We found plenty of interest, just not much opportunity. We wanted to provide that opportunity.”

The Outlaws would like to play in 6-8 tournaments per year and hope to limit the amount of travel to those tournaments, eyeing events between Charlotte, Upstate South Carolina and Asheville. The group is still working to set fees for players, but hope to keep those fees far below the standard costs for travel teams.

Charlton currently serves as an assistant softball coach at Hendersonville High School, joining the program after a year as the head coach at Apple Valley Middle School. He served as the head coach at North Carolina Central University for four seasons and was the head softball coach at Cary High School for three seasons. The former North Carolina State University football player also coached baseball and wrestling at the North Carolina School of Science and Math and football at Cary.

Despite his ties to Hendersonville, Charlton said that Polk County is the focus for the Outlaws in their startup phase.

“Kelly, Natasha and myself envision this team drawing from Polk County first, then surrounding areas if there’s a need to,” he said. “But we want to make sure Polk County gets what it needs from the program we are offering.”

Anyone with questions prior to the Feb. 20 meeting can call or text 828-243-7577 or visit the team’s page on Facebook.