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Mariners, EL1 Sports Partner to Provide More Equity, Access in Softball

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Kellyn Tate came from a middle class family in Missouri. She earned a scholarship to play softball at the University of Michigan before embarking on a professional playing career and eventually a coaching career.

But as she looks around the landscape of the sport now, the 47-year-old Tate wonders if her family could have afforded the cost to play if she was just starting out. She worries about other young girls being priced out of experiencing the benefits of softball.

That is why Tate is so excited about EL1 Sports partnering with the Seattle Mariners to launch the Mariners Training Centers across five EL1 baseball and softball facilities in the Seattle region. The partnership will support equity efforts by increasing access to facilities, instruction and advanced training for players.

Tate is the District Manager of EL1’s Softball University, a training program run by an all-female staff of former college players.

“Athletics should be the ultimate equalizer. It should be a melting pot from all different backgrounds,” Tate said. “In all my years or experience in the game, it’s a tragedy to see that it is not always affordable or accessible to a lot of players, and especially players of color and female athletes.”

EL1 entered into a partnership with Major League Baseball in March 2022 as its youth softball and baseball training partner to expand access to high-quality instruction for players of all skill levels and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

The EL1 Sports training centers are located in Puyallup, Redmond, Seattle, Tacoma and Woodinville. They will support team training and offer camps, clinics and one-on-one lessons from beginners to the elite level. 

The centers will be available for open facility times for community and youth leagues, and conduct free camps and clinics in communities throughout Washington and the Mariners’ five-state region to offer more chances for kids to get involved with baseball and softball.

Softball University is led by all female instructors who are former college players (Contributed Photo)

The centers will also serve as the official training partner for Baseball Beyond Borders RBI and be the offseason training partner for Hometown Nine Student-Athlete Fellows, which is a program designed to address barriers encountered by young athletes, especially young people of color. The Hometown Nine group includes softball players.

“They can expect the same level of training and same level of equipment usage and same level of technology usage as anyone else,” said Tate, a 1998 Michigan graduate and All-Big Ten outfielder. “They will have all the instructors here to support them along their journey. It’s going to bring a lot of excitement.”

The Mariners Training Centers are hosting grand opening events across all five locations during the first two weekends of March. The events are free and open to the public.

Although much work remains to be done to bridge the economic divide that can hinder participation in youth sports, Tate is hopeful the partnership with the Mariners is a step in the right direction on the diamond.

“Something that we can control is access in the facility and making sure they have smiles on their face,” Tate said. “As we have all been taught in this game, they can leave all their struggles behind when they come here and be surrounded by emotional support and feel welcome.”


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