In life, Katie Castaldi faced down softball opponents with pitching precision on the mound. This weekend, family and friends will honor the woman taken far too soon with a few strikeouts of their own.
Strikeouts for Katie is a co-ed, slow pitch softball tournament coming to Downingtown Little League on Saturday. It’s in memory of Castaldi, who died in March after a car accident at the age of 31 but spent her short life nurturing a sizable network of loved ones who immediately wanted to do something in the vivacious woman’s name after her death.
The tremendous response from the community proves just how beloved Castaldi was, says her lifelong friend and tournament organizer Lauren Kety.
“At first, it was supposed to be a game with just us girls who grew up with Katie and played softball with her,” Kety says. “When word got out, we started hearing from people from all over, including our old coaches, who wanted to join in.”
Plans soon meshed for Strikeouts for Katie, which kicks off Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Little League fields. Dozens of people are already on the roster to play and local businesses have stepped up big time by donating T-shirts, running the registration website, hosting fundraisers and organizing an after party.
Kety loves the local focus, given that Castaldi was a local girl through and through. Born in West Chester and raised in Downingtown, she grew up playing softball, cheerleading and dancing. Castaldi graduated from Downingtown Senior High School and the Center for Arts and Technology-School of Cosmetology in 2000; she later earned a bachelor’s from Temple University. Castaldi worked at Ultimate Image in Jeffersonville.
“I really wanted this to be local businesses only because we grew up here and most of our families have lived here for generations,” Kety says. “We wanted to give back, and we wanted to also support the local businesses we go to as much as they support us.”
It’s been bittersweet for Castaldi’s family and friends to witness the outpouring of affection while coming to terms with her death.
“Honest to goodness, she never had a bad word to say about anyone,” Kety says. “You think there’s nobody out there like that, but it’s true – when she walked into the room and she smiled, it lit up the whole room. You couldn’t help but smile back.”
Play ball! Or watch it
Teams already signed up for Strikeouts for Katie include her family, friends, former teammates, coworkers and softball fans who wanted to join in the fun even without knowing Castaldi. Spots are still open for more teams, half-teams or individual players who want play.
Proceeds raised this weekend will go to causes close to Castaldi’s heart: a scholarship in her name for cosmetology school and donations to Locks of Love and the Downingtown Little League. Donations also will be used to offset funeral expenses for the Castaldi/Yablonski families and as seed money for next year’s Strikeouts for Katie tournament.
If you go
To learn more about the tournament, register to play or donate, visit facebook.com/strikeoutsforkatie or wcssc.leagueapps.com/tournaments. If cheering is more your thing, the tournament will go on all day Saturday from the first pitch at 10 a.m. until dusk at Downingtown Little League fields, 318 Manor Ave.