By Perry L. Novak
Just because the World Series ended Sunday night didn’t mean Sophia Abounader and Gabby Ellixson were going to stop playing ball for awhile. Not with Jackie Traina headed to the Accelerate Sports facility on Judd Road in Whitesboro in a few weeks. “It’s an opportunity to learn from someone who’s played a lot,” said the 13-year-old Ellixson as she stepped into one of the batting cages at the multi-sport indoor facility November 2 for a hitting lesson. “To see how they play.”
The Whitesboro ninth grader is looking forward to a day-long clinic with Traina, a world champion as a member of the USA team and a Womens College World Series champion with the University of Alabama in 2012. Now the Florida native plays professionally in Japan half the year and does clinics when she’s back in the US. That she’s coming north for the November 21 clinic – she usually does clinics in states like Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri – is a bonus.
“I think bringing (clinics) to different places is a great opportunity,” the 5-foot-11, hard-throwing righty said in a recent phone interview with Mid York Sports Report. “It’s good for girls to get exposure to different role models.”
The clinic is the brainchild of Accelerate Sports Director of Softball, Bryan Ingalls. The 30-year-old Oriskany native plays competitive fastpitch softball and jumped at the chance to bring Traina north for a clinic. “We’ve done over 20 softball clinics in 10 months,” Ingalls said. “As a competitor, I’m drawn to it.”
Ingalls first met Jackie Traina when he went to Alabama for a softball clinic. At the time, he was as an assistant coach for perennial junior college power Herkimer College. Bryan continued his coaching career as an assistant at Cortland State, before heading to SUNY Canton, to be the head softball coach.
The creation of the Accelerate Sports Complex, by Owner Fred Burrows, Jr., was also a dream come true for Ingalls, who now coaches his favorite sport year round. Accelerate has athletes of all ages playing baseball, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, futsol, field hockey, lacrosse and, yes, softball seven days a week. And people have been flocking to the place since the complex opened in 2014. The facility also houses of a state of the art fitness and athletic training center, as well as a track.
“I just want to do it,” Abounader, 8, said with a big smile after taking a break from fielding grounders hit by her father, Tom. “I want to learn to hit the ball more farther and to catch better. I like it.” The Abounaders enjoy their time together four times a week, and they look forward to meeting and learning from such a famous athlete, plus her lessons with Audrey LaFountain, a prolific instructor, who played at the Division I level for the University of Louisville, before turning professional.
Sophia, a third grader, is also from Whitesboro and just loves the sport. “She was inspired by Derek Jeter,” her father said with a smile. And just because Audrey LaFountain is an adult, doesn’t mean she can’t get just as revved up for the November 21 clinic. “I’m very excited to get someone of her caliber in our facility, to showcase what our facility has to offer,” she said just before her slap hitting lesson with Ellixson.
Traina and an impressive staff of other standout players and coaches have three sessions planned for November 21st. Athletes should preregister for any or all three sessions, which cover all aspects of the game. Preregistration should be completed by November 7th for this very popular program.
Staff for the clinic includes Oneida’s Mike Curro, Holland Patent’s Dennis Williams and Poland’s Greg Haver as well as the Accelerate Sports staff and of course, Traina. More coaches will be announced in the coming days.
“What we want to stress is the amount of effort and self-motivation they need,” Traina said of the key to the clinic. “We’ll stress fundamentals and mechanics. Having the fundamentals is huge.”
Not surprisingly, Ingalls expects a huge turnout for the event. “I expect more than 100 girls, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s 150,” Ingalls said.
People can sign up for this clinic by contacting Ingalls at: , or calling the Accelerate Sports Complex at 315-507-5560.