Dads, daughters and dingers: Spanish Fork sluggers rock the old block
In the summer of 1996, the only connection between Andy Hall, a 22-year-old infielder from California, and Damian Sapp, a 20-year-old power hitter from Pleasant Grove, Utah, was that they had baseball aspirations. Single-A. Midwest League players.
They crisscrossed the Midwest that summer on buses dreaming of major league careers, Hall in the Cardinals organization and Sapp in the Red Sox organization.
Hall’s Team Peoria and Sapp’s Team Michigan faced each other numerous times that summer, but neither Hall nor Sapp can remember the other. Why would they, in the world of minor league baseball, it’s a revolving door of nameless faces.
It wasn’t until more than a decade later that a second bond was established between the two — their softball-hitting daughters.
Peyton Hall and Avery Sapp are two of the best softball power hitters in the state, and both are juniors who fit Spain’s top-ranked 5A Dons Fork.
Hall usually hits the No. 3 spot and clears Sapp bats.
Hall is second in the state this spring with 11 homers, and Sapp is tied with 10 dingers. That’s the exact number of home runs they both hit last season for state champion Dons as a sophomore, and they have at least a dozen more games this year to rack up on the stats.
“I feel like we protect ourselves very well in the lineup. I love hitting behind Peyton and anyway if we had to switch places I would be happy with that,” Sapp said.
Both excelled on the softball field throughout their young careers, and it was their fathers who played a big part in that journey. Neither father reached the Bigs. Andy Hall never topped High-A baseball in his three seasons, while Damian Sapp spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, briefly hitting Triple-A in five games in 2000 for Pawtucket. He mostly spent time in High-A and Double-A.
Along the way, however, they both learned the tools of the trade which they passed on to their daughters, who flourished with each step.
“I go knocking with my dad almost every day after school. … He’s always been my batting coach, so I’m going to hit with him and work on staying consistent,” said Hall, who is hitting .520 this season with 30 RBIs to go along with his 11 home runs.
Hall’s only collegiate offer so far is to play at Salt Lake Community College, but she’s joining Sapp’s travel team this summer and hopes more offers will arrive.
“This summer is going to be very important for me because I’m playing in a lot of big tournaments,” said Hall, who said playing even more with Sapp would be great. “We have always been very good friends. I have known her since I was 10 years old. I played together for a few years, then on different teams, now we’re back in high school and I’m going to play on the same summer team as her.
Hall was a big sophomore contributor for Spanish Fork, but with four seniors, not much was expected when it came to leadership. She took on a bigger leadership role this season, however, which Spanish Fork coach Natalie Jarvis said included moving from shortstop to third base to help the team early in the season. .
“She wanted to be the shortstop, but she knew what would be best for the team,” said Jarvis, who added that Hall is a quiet leader who largely lets her do the talking. “She has one of the prettiest swings you’ve ever seen, her mechanics are impeccable. She keeps getting better. Every day, she strives to improve herself.
His father’s years of experience undoubtedly played a big part in this nice swing.
Avery Sapp’s father was the co-MVP of Deseret News 4A from Pleasant Grove in 1994 when he hit 16 home runs with a .493 batting average.
His daughter has a similar eye for the ball. Last year she hit .512 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs, while this year she hits a whopping .648 with 10 dingers, four doubles and 27 RBIs.
“In terms of strikes, she has improved a lot, she suffered a little more last year. She spent a lot more time on her strikes,” Jarvis said.
And the reason for this big leap into the batting box, his father.
“I hung out with my dad a lot and we worked out a lot of things,” she said.
Sapp has a hit in 15 of 16 games this season and is in the middle of a 14-game hitting streak. She’s verbally committed to UVU, and it has as much to do with her throwing as her hitting.
Sapp was the Spanish Fork ace last year as a sophomore, posting a 21-1 record. She is 7-3 on the mound so far this season, and while there have been a few other losses to tough teams, she feels her mental approach on the mound is stronger.
Last week, in a win over Springville, after a 4-0 lead was reduced to 4-3 in the fifth inning, in the next inning after Springville put the tying run on second base, Sapp made the out the next three batters.
“I don’t let myself down or pressure myself, I’m more relaxed and I think I’ve matured more in the game than last year,” Sapp said.
Four years ago, a pair of Spanish Fork sluggers led the state in home runs, Brylee Rudd with 20 and Jordyn Bate with 19. Fast forward to 2022 and a pair of Spanish Fork juniors threaten to do it again.
A small part of that success comes from the knowledge their fathers picked up and then passed on from the Midwest League baseball fields in the summer of 1996.