PENDLETON — Pendleton residents know the Round-Up Indian Village as the setting for a sea of teepees each September during the town’s historic rodeo. But in the spring of 1987 the expanse, nestled between the Round-Up grounds and the Umatilla River, played home to Pendleton High School’s first softball team.
Home plate was no more than a chalk circle scribbled in the dirt. A shaky backstop was the only section of fence surrounding the field as the outfield continued beyond any girls’ bat power. The team played in T-shirts and shorts without real uniforms. Coach Terry Prouse would stitch on numbers before every game, having to remove them because the shirts were shared with the same-season track program.
“But at that time we didn’t really care,” said Prouse, who helped establish the team after her hire as a physical education teacher in Pendleton in 1986. “We were playing. We got to be part of a team.”
The boys had a baseball field while the girls were left with quite literally a field. The pens for the rodeo stock lined the side of the “diamond” and what was worse than allowing an opponent’s hit was allowing a slicing foul ball.
“We had a foul ball go off into the bull cage a couple times,” said Prouse, 55, who led the school’s softball program until 2002 and has since become the girls’ golf coach. “Nobody wanted to try and stick their hands in there to get it.”
Prouse came to Pendleton from Beaverton, where she graduated in 1975. Volleyball and basketball were fresh on the scene for high schoolers there, but not softball. She didn’t cross paths with the game until college at Portland State University.
Had softball entered her mind-frame earlier, Prouse said she would have become a player. She wanted to make sure the next generation of female athletes had the option.
“They didn’t have an opportunity and I thought they should,” she said. “They had all that going on in the (Willamette) Valley already. We needed to do that.”
Prouse raised $1,000 that first year to start the program. The team scheduled only 15 games and Hermiston was its only league opponent. Knowing that the Indian Village was no home for a competitive program, Pendleton began sharing facilities with the town’s Little Leaguers.
In 1994, the program broke ground on the Buckaroos’ current softball home near Sunridge Middle School.
First came a fence. Then dugouts. Batting cages next.
“Each team and each coach left a mark,” Prouse said.
And each year was like a stepping stone leading to Pendleton softball’s current peak. The Bucks won the Class 5A State Championship on June 2, the team and school’s first state title.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.