In the summer of 1996, the only connection between Andy Hall, a 22-year-old middle infielder from California, and Damian Sapp, a 20-year-old power hitter from Pleasant Grove, Utah, was they were aspiring Single-A baseball players in the Midwest League.
They crisscrossed the Midwest that summer on buses dreaming of careers in the big leagues, Hall in the Cardinals organization and Sapp in the Red Sox organization.
Hall’s Peoria team and Sapp’s Michigan team played against each other numerous times that summer, but neither Hall nor Sapp remembers the other. Why would they, in the minor league baseball world, it’s a revolving door of nameless faces.
It wasn’t until over a decade later that a second connection was made between the two — their softball slugging daughters.
Hall usually hits in the No. 3 spot and Sapp bats cleanup.
Hall is second in the state this spring with 11 home runs, and Sapp is tied with 10 dingers. That’s the exact number of home runs they both hit last season for the state-champion Dons as sophomores, and they’ve got at least a dozen more games this year to pile on the stats.
“I feel like we protect each other very well in the lineup. I love hitting behind Peyton and either way if we were to switch spots I’d be content with that,” said Sapp.
Both have excelled on the softball diamond throughout their young careers, and it’s their fathers who’ve played a big role in that journey. Neither dad made it to the Bigs. Andy Hall never made it past High-A baseball in his three seasons, while Damian Sapp spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, reaching Triple-A briefly for five games in 2000 for Pawtucket. He mostly spent time in High-A and Double-A.
Along the way though, they both learned the tools of the trade that they’ve passed onto their daughters, who’ve flourished every step of the way.
“I go hit almost every day with my dad after school. ... He’s always been my hitting coach, so I go hit with him and work on staying consistent,” said Hall, who is hitting .520 this season with 30 RBIs to go along with her 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 hopeful more offers come in.
“This summer will be very big for me as I’m playing in a lot of big tournaments,” said Hall, who said playing with Sapp even more will be great. “We’ve always been really good friends. I’ve known her since I was 10. Played together a few years, then on different teams, now we’re back together in high school and I’m going to be playing on the same summer team as her.”
Hall was a big contributor as a sophomore for Spanish Fork, but with four seniors not much was expected as far as leadership. She’s taken on a larger leadership role this season, however, which Spanish Fork coach Natalie Jarvis said included shifting 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 lets her hitting do much of the talking. “She has one of the most pretty swings you’ll ever see, her mechanics are flawless. She just keeps getting better and better. Every day she puts in effort to get better.”
Her father’s years of experience no doubt has played a big role in that pretty swing.
Avery Sapp’s father was the Deseret News 4A co-MVP out of Pleasant Grove in 1994 as he slugged 16 home runs with a .493 batting average.
His daughter has a similar eye for the ball. Last year she batted .512 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs, while this year she’s hitting a whopping .648 with 10 dingers, four doubles and 27 RBIs.
“Hitting-wise she’s improved a lot, she struggled a little more last year. She’s put a lot more time into her hitting,” said Jarvis.
And the reason for that big jump in the batters box, her dad.
“I have been hitting with my dad a lot and we’ve fixed a lot of things,” she said.
Sapp has a hit in 15 of 16 games this season, and is in the midst of a 14-game hitting streak. She’s verbally committed to UVU, and it’s just as much to do with her pitching as hitting.
Sapp was the ace of Spanish Fork’s team last year as a sophomore, posting a 21-1 record. So far this season she’s 7-3 on the mound, and while there have been a few more losses against tough teams, she feels her mental approach on the mound is stronger.
Last week in a win over Springville, after a 4-0 lead shrunk to 4-3 in the fifth inning, in the next inning after Springville put the tying run on second base, Sapp proceeded to strike out the next three batters.
“I’m not letting myself get down and putting pressure on myself, I’m more relaxed and I think I’ve matured more in the game than last year,” said Sapp.
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 are threatening to do it again.
A small sliver of that success comes from the knowledge their fathers picked up and then passed on from the baseball diamonds of the Midwest League in the summer of 1996.