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La Grande High School softball player Des McCoy is one of the coaches of the girls minors this year, and she's helping them out by letting them use her batting cage. (Observer photo/PIERRE LaBOSSIERE).
La Grande High School softball player Des McCoy is one of the coaches of the girls minors this year, and she's helping them out by letting them use her batting cage. (Observer photo/PIERRE LaBOSSIERE).

By Pierre LaBossire

Observer Staff Writer

Six years ago, when Des McCoy was little, she and her older sister Breanna were taken out to the garage by their dad, Danny, to be surprised with one of the best Christmas presents she's ever received.

It wasn't a bike or a dog. The girls, who loved playing softball, were presented with a kit for a batting cage. Over the next several days, her dad put the kit together and McCoy has been pounding away at the batting cage ever since. A typical impatient kid, those were long days waiting for the work to be done on the cage. "I couldn't wait to get it set up," she said.

McCoy, who just finished her junior year at La Grande High School, spent countless hours in her batting cage growing up, refining her stroke. She even uses the cage to practice her pitching, taking advantage of a target to perfect her command of the strike zone. Next year, McCoy will likely be one of the featured pitchers for the Tigers.

To McCoy's knowledge, her batting cage is just one of two or three in the whole community (there is one at the La Grande Middle School annex). So, McCoy's batting cage has made her popular with her Tiger teammates, as well.

"All the time I get phone calls ... ‘Can we come over and hit?'" she said.

She is parlaying all those hours in the cage into a successful high school career. This past season, McCoy made the all Greater Oregon League first team. She still has a senior year to get that much better.

And for the past few weeks, she's been giving back, letting others take advantage of her old Christmas present. McCoy is the only high school player this summer helping coach a La Grande Little League All-Star team. McCoy is a coach for the 9- to 10-year old All-Star Minor girls who begin tournament play today in Milton-Freewater (Keith Walker is the manager, while Johanna Everidge is a coach.).

For the past couple of weeks, McCoy has been letting her pupils practice for a couple of hours every other day in her personal batting cage. She figured it worked for her, so it ought to help her players.

"I think it's helped me so much," she said. Watching the 9- and 10-year-olds practice in the cage, she helps them correct little mistakes they're making in their strokes, or where they're placing their hands and feet when they bunt.

McCoy's gotten the coaching bug now and said this might be the beginning of a coaching career. "I like working with little kids," she said. "I like seeing the girls improve."

She realizes a lot of high school kids are spending their summers doing things for themselves, but she doesn't mind all the time she's putting into working with young kids. "It's a lot of work, but it's worth it," she said.

McCoy was a Little League All-Star several years ago and said she is looking forward to the tournament this weekend. "I'm excited, this is going to be fun," she said. "I haven't been to All-Star (tournaments) since I was an All-Star."

Most high school softball pitchers throw around 50 to 60 miles an hour. The top speed of the machine goes up to 100 mph, and just for fun, McCoy said she's ramped it up to 100 just to see if she can hit the ball. She has to begin her swing as soon as the ball is dropped into the machine.

"I can just barely get a piece of it," she laughed.

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