Triple Crown Sports’ signature fastpitch event, the Colorado 4th of July tournament, will take on a different shape in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and making summer travel as comfortable as possible for youth softball programs.
There will be four distinct regional 4th of July events this year, all of them with the same format of a 6-game guarantee in the 18u/16u/14u/12u age groups. The date range is expected to be June 29-July 7 (depending on team count and facility availability), with Power Pools and Open Divisions at each setting:
Southern California (Riverside/Chino Hills)
Colorado (Denver Metro)
Texas (Houston/The Woodlands)
As of mid-May, different parts of the United States are approaching the return of sports with different timelines. Triple Crown will be monitoring the situation at these four regions on a daily basis and communicating with teams when there is news to share.
Triple Crown has multiple plans under consideration that will be dedicated to ensuring the safety and health of athletes, coaches and fans. Each 4th of July event will be run while keeping teams and spectators at the heart of our safety protocols.
The four-region concept allows teams to start making plans now for their 4th of July experience, which will feature terrific competition and thus attract, as always, a variety of college programs who will use the event as a key piece of their strategy for recruiting future players. This is also a great opportunity for teams that don't usually travel to Colorado to play in the event.
“After reaching out to hundreds of club programs, we know that traveling this summer is a concern for teams. Triple Crown has the contacts and connections to make a regional 4th of July happen,” said event director Stephanie Klaviter. “There are ways to get back on the field safely, and we see various complexes coming back and ready to open. With multiple regions, teams can pick the best fit and also ease some of the travel demands in a time where being closer to home might feel more comfortable.”
For more information, please contact:
Or go to www.cosparkfire.com
This year marks the 31st season for Firecrackers Softball, one of the giant brands in club softball and now flexing muscle around the country in 20 states. Highlights for the organization run far and wide, with another impressive group suiting up at 16u, the Brashear/Hicks squad born and based in San Diego.
Bill Hicks runs that 16u team and doubles up for the organization with a 14u team with athletes hailing from San Diego and Orange County. Triple Crown event directors and others have taken note of Hicks’ determination to train his athletes and prepare them for future exploits in the sport, with the 16u team holding up just fine at large-scale events, even against 18u competition.
Hicks played multiple sports growing up and earned a scholarship to play basketball at San Diego State, then got into coaching when his daughter Katy started playing softball. She’s already a D-I signee, heading to George Mason in the fall of 2021.
Q: How did you get yourself up to speed in terms of softball?
A: It all started in 6u T-ball, where I was a helper dad, so I was always the guy who helped but made sure I was learning from the coaches. W went through 8u, and I was invited to be on board of directors of the local league. Coming through rec ball into 10u, I was learning how to do budgets and make giant schedules and just organize things.
I coached my daughter’s team for one year, and we did pretty good. About the time she hit first-year 12’s, she came to her Mom and I and asked if she could play All-Stars all year round, and we explained, that means you’ll be playing travel ball. This was in 2014; we found a team for her, she tried it for the fall season and absolutely fell in love. They asked if I would do some managerial tasks at the end of the year. I came on board, started doing the budgets and scheduling, and that’s how it grew … a little at a time.
Q: At some point, you decided to get into the dugout. How did that happen?
A: The next year, 2015, I got a call from a travel club in San Diego, and they asked if I would be willing to take that age group, that was the 2021 grad year. They did not have that age group in the organization, and I had been recommended by some people in the rec ball community. I said yes, so we had tryouts for a second-year 12u team, and that was our beginning.
Q: The softball scene in SoCal appears to have many strong personalities. How do you navigate that?
A: It does take a certain personality to do it. You have to be fair yet firm with how you run the team. You have to be open-minded. You have to know what you have and be willing to be a unique individual. In Southern California, there are so many personalities … it’s easy to say, I just want to be like that coach, emulate that person. But some of the most successful coaches you’ll see are the ones who don’t conform to what everyone else does. They don’t follow - they are the leaders, the rainmakers. It’s really why I felt such a connection with Sean Brashear, and above him, Tony Rico and the rest of the Firecrackers organization. It really fit what we were doing. You’ll see in Southern California, it’s very easy to pick out the originals, the trail blazers, the guys who have been doing it their own way.
The one thing about Firecrackers, and Firecrackers-Brashear specifically, is that allow you to do what you feel is best, to be unique, but they do that with guidance. With Sean, he’s always there to answer questions, but there are things I do that he supports that are new and innovative and different. They support you being an individual and give help when you need it. It’s a big reason why I enjoy being there.
Q: Once your daughter heads to George Mason, will you stay in the game?
A: Absolutely, I’m staying in. Sean’s big question has been what will I do after (Katy’s team), and the plan is to circle down to the group that’s 14’s now and work on their recruiting. After that, maybe we’ll put together a team that’s younger, but the plan is to keep right on going. I love what I do.
Q: What’s the main message your players and parents have to understand?
A: We try to help the players understand that they’ll get out of this experience exactly what they put in. We are fair in what we do in terms of showcasing; if they are going to work hard, then we will work hard for them. Everything goes two ways. Play hard, and we’ll coach you hard. To put it in one phrase, we are all in this together.
While it’s no surprise to event directors inside Triple Crown Sports, the youth softball community is getting another push forward in terms of skill and tenacity from the midsection of the nation, including Oklahoma.
In previous years, we’ve talked with and about Gametime Stars and OK Exclusive, and now it’s time for the spotlight to hit the Oklahoma Athletics, founded in 2010 by the father-son unit of Mike and Brian Madden. Brian Madden coaches the 18 Premier squad, which finished 2019 in the US Club Rankings Top 25. Dozens of A’s players have earned college scholarships, and the program now fields 35 teams, 26 in the greater Oklahoma City area.
Previous to his coaching run, Brian played baseball through high school, then at (D-II) Southern Nazarene University (Bethany, OK), where he was a two-time All-American, setting multiple program records before graduating in 2007. He coached baseball for one year as a graduate assistant, then moved up to a softball coaching position at SNU in 2009.
Q: From a distance, it sure seemed like you were all baseball, all the time. How did you get involved with softball?
A: I didn’t know how I’d take to it or like softball because I was a baseball guy, and I ended up loving it. I’m still at SNU, where I was an assistant for 11 years, and now in my first year as co-head coach.
Softball seemed like good avenue; I was helping my sister in the summer. I enjoyed working with the girls, they listened well and played hard. Girls are very team-orientated, and I saw it as fun, fast-paced and a different style of coaching. I jumped at the opportunity at SNU (with a small pay raise). I was nervous about it, but it worked out really well.
Q: Anytime you hang your own shingle and start your own club, there are no guarantees for success. How did the Athletics get started?
A: My dad and I were working with a group of 10-year olds at the time (2010); when my sister was younger, her team was called the Athletics, so that’s how we came up with the name … it was a solo team. That 10-year-old group became kind of our base team; eight of them stayed together through 18u ball, six went Division I and all of them played in college. I then had a group of 18-year-olds who were looking for something different, so we had them as an 18 Gold team and then dad’s 10u team. We hired a coach for 16u and 14u and then held tryouts, trying to get maybe four or five teams so we could open up a facility. We had 350 girls try out, so we filled eight teams right off the bat.
It grew from there; we weren’t planning on getting to 35 teams, but we kept expanding. We have five total national-caliber competitive teams, 18’s through 14’s.
Q: There’s a lot of pride and passion in softball anyway, but how fierce does it get in Oklahoma?
A: It’s become very competitive in Oklahoma over the past few years. How it breeds around here is kind of a love-hate thing. We dislike each other on the field, but we love that we are around that level of competition all the time. We are all trying to get better and one-up each other; we all work hard. We don’t have the quantity of talent that they have in Texas and California, but the teams we have that finished top 10 in PGF, those were all Oklahoma girls. We don’t draw from multiple states. Our players come from about a 100-mile radius, and we take a lot of pride in that. I think we are tough; we definitely have that underdog mentality. We know people don’t take Oklahoma super-seriously, and that eats at our coaching staff, for sure. We definitely have some of the best kids in the country and that’s been proven over the last few years.
Q: What is the guiding philosophy and mindset for the Athletics?
A: We want to be a family, and players know we care about them more deeply than just as a player. We want them to have a good career, we care about their families, and we try to keep the cost down as much as possible. We want them to feel they are developing as a player and a person, and that there are good people around to help them do that. We want to work hard, and we don’t make excuses. We want to be known as a blue-collar organization that gets after it and does the right thing. We’ll try to make you get better, reach the next level, and hope you have fun doing it.
To our customers, clients and friends,
Much like the rest of the nation, Triple Crown Sports is working through the moment-to-moment challenges and obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, doing our best to confront today’s news while also keeping an eye on the future.
With the office closed in accordance with public health requirements, our event directors have attempted to make the most of working remotely — reaching out to hundreds of coaches and parents and listening to how teams and families have been affected. Our appreciation of community has deepened as we’ve learned more about what you need, and what you want to see happen next.
We are as eager as you to get back on the playing field, but until then, know that we are working diligently to develop new events and opportunities for you and your families to look forward to once these arduous times are over. After 35-plus years in the event business, Triple Crown has seen tough times before and always emerged with more insight and determination to give you valuable, memorable experiences.
As it stands, our event schedule through mid-April has been cancelled. We will continue to update you on events in late April and May as new information is presented. If you have questions about specific events please feel free to reach out to the event director.
Through all of this we hope you and your families stay safe and healthy. Sports will return, and when they do, Triple Crown will be ready to deliver.
- Keri King
CEO, Triple Crown Sports
By Sergio Santistevan
In 2000, the Arctic Heat fastpitch organization was founded out of Eagle River, Alaska – but the passion for softball started long before.
The Arctic Heat can be considered a family affair, with husband and wife Carl and Michele Waters at the head of the program. The Waters are the founders of the program and the current Board of Directors. Their daughters, Courtney Waters and Andrea Canfield, are former players and current coaches of the Heat.
The strong softball blood can be tied to Michele’s mother, Lauretta Williams. In the first case of the softball family being doubted, Williams lived in Japan at a time when baseball wasn’t popular for women, so she went against the status quo and played with the men.
As a high school student, Michele started to become consumed and fall in love with the game herself while watching her mother.
“I played in high school and actually started coaching my senior year in high school. I coached a team with my mom,” Michele said. “My mother taught me when I was younger (that) because I’m not a very big woman, if you learn to play everywhere and learn to hit everywhere, you become more valuable than the girl that can hit to the fence.”
Williams’ advice to her daughter has translated to the Arctic Heat’s coaching philosophy. In practice, Heat players don’t have positions, because you never know when a player is going to be needed elsewhere. For example, if a college coach wants to see the shortstop play some first base, now she needs to be ready for that position and someone else needs to be ready to take her spot.
“All of our girls move around. All our infielders move around the infield. All our outfield moves around the outfield, and they switch back and forth. Our catcher can play third, second or center. Our pitchers all play third, first or second. Our second basemen can play outfield and catches,” Michele said. “We make sure that when a coach comes up and says we want to see a girl in a position, our team transitions and moves around seamlessly.”
Michele still plays softball today and follows the same advice from her mother. She is a utility player for her Huntsman World Senior Games team, where they have won a gold medal three out of the past four seasons.
When she isn’t playing softball, Michele and Carl stay busy with Arctic Heat, where their roles have slightly changed since 2000. Currently, Michele is the team manager for the 18u team, while Carl is president and recruiting liaison. His game-day role consists of never entering the dugout and solely interacting with college coaches. Courtney is currently the head coach of the 18u team, and Andrea helps with the teams as well.
Along with assistance from five other coaches, the Arctic Heat program is all in on the mission of getting girls scholarships, a mission that formed during a small youth fastpitch tournament over two decades ago. Before the Arctic Heat became established and were under a different name, a fellow opponent in an Oregon tournament poked fun at the team from Alaska.
“They kind of laughed at us and said, ‘You guys from Alaska can’t play softball, you guys can’t get scholarships,’” Michele said. “It kind of ticked us off. We were like ‘wait a minute, we got talent in Alaska’ and we beat that team.”
After somebody asked Carl and Michele to start the Arctic Heat, they finally did when Courtney was in eighth grade. However, Carl and Michele didn’t fully dive into the Heat just yet because they were still coaching another team at the time, Northern Impact. Once all the girls graduated from the Northern Impact, the team slowly fell apart and all the girls turned to Arctic Heat.
The Heat has evolved into a top-notch, non-profit organization whose sole focus is to promote softball with the highlight of getting girls scholarships. Since their creation, over 100 Arctic Heat players, including Courtney and Andrea, have earned college scholarships.
With the Arctic Heat focused with such determination about putting athletes into college, they don’t boast about their on-field accomplishments. On their website, it’s difficult to find any championship accolades, but it’s easy to find players who have earned scholarships and educational resources. Each coach plays an integral role in making those scholarship dreams come true, on the diamond or in the classroom. As an example, one of the coaches on staff does tutoring for the kids in her spare time, while another handles ACT prep.
Before heading to tournaments, Heat coaches will check grades from players to make sure that hurdle isn’t between them and college coaches.
“On our team, it’s mandatory that you carry at least a 3.0 GPA. It’s required to try and maintain a 3.2,” Michele said. “We’ve had girls maintained 4.0’s throughout school … we really want these girls to go to college. We really want them to succeed. We prepare them athletically, but we also let them know you’re a student first.”
On top of education and softball, all Arctic Heat players are required to do some form of charity work. For Mother’s Day this year, all Heat players will serve breakfast for local mothers at one of the supporters’ businesses.
Despite scholarships and success on the diamond, today’s Arctic Heat still experience many of the same struggles that early Alaska fastpitch teams faced.
“We come to these tournaments and we’ll play and there are times when teams beat us one to two, one to zero, three to zero, and they’re California, Texas, Arizona and Oregon teams,” Michele said. “One of the things I would really like these teams to know is our high school season is 26 games and that includes state, so if you don’t make it to state you only have 23 games. By the time we get to the first tournament, we have only played five games together.
“The teams that we play that only beat us by one or two typically have played 50 to 90 games by the time they see us … some of them are gracious about it, while some are a little arrogant.”
Through the years, numerous college programs have noticed the talent but lack of exposure in Alaska, so Carl flirted with the idea of highlighting Alaskan players to colleges in an event. As a result, Triple Crown Sports created The Great Alaska Showcase in 2019 (set for Aug. 4-6 this year in Anchorage). This event is one of the most successful recruiting camps for all fastpitch players in Alaska, as it brings together college coaches and players throughout the weekend.
“It’s easier for us to sponsor eight, nine or 10 coaches and Triple Crown to come up here than it is to send these girls to tournaments,” Michele said. “It also gives those girls that aren’t on a competitive team or don’t have the funds to travel to be seen.”
If things don’t go great on the field, the Heat coaches don’t let their players hang their heads, because they take pride in the group. They know other teams have more resources and get to play in more tournaments together.
As a unit, the Arctic Heat operate seamlessly despite the lack of playing time together because the coaches stress the basics. In October, the coaches make all players start back at the square one, from how to field and hit. The Arctic Heat makes up for the lost time by making sure every player is individually prepared.
“The girls need to work hard, play fair and everything else will come together,” Michele said. “You can’t be successful unless you work.”
by Sergio Santistevan
There is truly no offseason in softball, and as Triple Crown summer fastpitch individual events prove, recruiting is a 24/7 job.
“Triple Crown, in my experience, I know (has) extremely good tournaments to go to,” said team manager Michele Waters of the Arctic Heat 18u, who credits these events for helping many of her players get recruited.
The first recruiting event of the year, Zoom into June, will take place on June 4-8 in West Covina, Riverside and Hemet, CA. Entering its 10th year, Zoom into June is the largest recruiting showcase on the West Coast and is widely viewed as the best early recruiting showcase on the calendar.
Zoom into June offers five days of jam-packed action for players to get noticed by various college coaches. The event provides a plethora of showcase games, such as Organizational Workouts, Uncommitted 2020 and 2021 Workout, OnDeck Camp, All-Star and All-Academic games.
On top of all the individual showcase action, teams get the opportunity to compete in a five-game guarantee format, so college programs get to see players in real-game situations.
In 2019, more than 200 college coaches attended Zoom Into June and recruited plenty of talent as over 400 teams competed in the games and over 450 individuals attended extra showcase and camp opportunities.
If Zoom into June doesn’t fit into the calendar, workouts at the Valley Invite on June 19 in Portland marks another opportunity for players to get noticed by college programs.
In previous years, college representatives from major DI colleges were in attendance along with JUCO and NAIA representatives. Last year, over 200 teams registered in the five-game guarantee tournament; this year, the Valley Invite format will be different than in previous years, but coaches and players can still expect a high-level tournament, individual events and college coaches with recruiting on their mind.
One of Triple Crown signature fastpitch events lights up Colorado through June 28- July 5. Teams throughout the United States will participate in the annual Colorado 4th of July Sparkler & Fireworks. The tournament consists of a six-game guarantee and modified elimination formats.
“The Colorado Sparkler & Fireworks have been around for a very long time. They are extremely organized and extremely beneficial. If anybody can get their teams to those tournaments, we would recommend it,” said Waters. “That’s where the girls get the scholarships from. Ninety percent of our girls get our scholarships from those tournaments.”
This year the 2020 Power Pool playoff system will be enhanced, as the top teams in the U.S. Club Rankings and certain at-large teams will be invited to participate.
All the action kicks off on June 28 with College Camp Sunday, which provides high-tempo workouts and drills from college coaches at the Aurora Sports Park.
On Elite College Camp Monday, nationally recognized college coaching staffs will host workouts for a small group of 40 participants to help refine skills and develop a deeper understanding of the game. Programs that have been confirmed for their camp so far include the University of Oregon, Notre Dame and Texas A&M.
On Tuesday, June 30, uncommitted junior and seniors will run through specific skill stations administered by TCS staff. This event is open to any unsigned graduates in the 2020 or 2021 class and JUCO players. Over the years, this event has hosted over 100 college coaches and had over 50 participants, so it presents a great chance for players to be recruited.
Hundreds of college colleges are attending Colorado 4th of July Sparkler & Fireworks event this year, ranging from DI’s University of New Mexico and the University of Hawaii to NAIA’s Bethel University.
Don’t miss out on getting noticed by college coaches at any of these TCS fastpitch opportunities this summer!
Carving your own space in one of the most competitive softball environments in the nation requires some strong tools, and since its debut in 2015, Diamond Fury Elite Fastpitch has shown a steady handle on the task.
Founded by Mitch Stamper, the Diamond Fury Elite (DFE) program now features nine teams ranging from 10u to 14u and has become one of greater Houston’s toughest challenges for more well-established competition. As a first-year 10u team, Diamond Fury Elite claimed a 2016 USFA National Championship in Panama City, FL., and there’s every indication the learning curve for each roster is bending in the right direction.
Triple Crown had a chance to talk with Stamper in our first Fastpitch Profile of 2020. He grew up in the Northwest and actually got started as a coach with volleyball, working with the 16s and 18s at Club Catalyst in Seattle. He attended the University of Montana where he studied business and later went back to school earning a Mechanical Engineering degree from University of North Dakota. Mitch and his wife Kristy moved to Houston in 1999 for work in the oil and gas industry.
Q: How did moving into softball come to pass?
A: Our oldest daughter was 5 and said she wanted to play soccer. She then realized all the running was not very interesting. It was too early for volleyball, so she decided to try softball and fell in love. The other dads around it weren’t as experienced, so I got involved.
In 2008 we branched out, took a few kids and started a select team. That year we went on to finish 5th at the USFA World Series.. That’s what really triggered it.
Q: What drove you to start your own club?
A: We put together a business plan in 2014, when a lot of organizations were blowing up. I wasn’t aligned with their model of 15 teams per age group. I thought it looked like quantity vs. quality, more for profit. In 2015, we brought DFE to life, and we wanted to start an organization that was about quality. Our mission statement is -- “The vision of Diamond Fury Elite fastpitch is to be the most highly regarded select softball program in the nation, by developing long-term, low-attrition relationships with highly motivated players in our program while providing top in class structured programmatic coaching.”
We have small numbers, but our teams are extremely competitive. Every year, we’ve added one or two teams. Justin Abke came on board in our second year and has been a big part of the program’s growth and now coaches one of the best teams in the state of Texas and certainly will be a national contender this year.
Q: What are some guiding philosophies and practices that help make Diamond Fury unique?
A: The answer is two parts, one that focuses internally and one externally. The internal piece of Diamond Fury Elite is we are a behavior-based program. Everything we do, all our drills and processes, are to drive a behavior in the athlete. An example: have the player chart the pitches they saw in an at-bat. Prior to your next at bat, you then consult the chart, see how you were pitched, flip up and back a couple spots to see if there’s something similar happening with other hitters. At the end of tournament, these notes get tossed as coaches maintain official pitch charts, but what we are instilling in the athlete is being aware of your approach at the plate. You have to know how you are pitched from your first at-bat to your last at bat. By taking the time to review these charts, you might see you’ve chased two or three pitches off the plate. So your approach should be different.
In 2020 we will roll out player handbooks; they fill it out after each game, make notes on anything from that game that you want to work on. It can be good or bad. It drives the behavior; we ask them to, before the next practice, summarize their tournament and send the coach an email saying, these are the things I did well, and what I didn’t do well. We may use that to put a practice plan together if we see a consistency and other girls with similar issues, or maybe we can drive a behavior that says, when you show up for practice, we want you thinking about the tournament that happened a few days ago, and we want you working on the things you need to work on, that you yourself said.
Being a behavioral based program you start to have success with wins vs. losses and your national finishes … parents start to see that there’s value in our program. We’re very selective with our coaches; we could be at 50 teams if we wanted to, but it doesn’t fit our model of “Quality vs Quantity. We want our recruiting classes small so that when asked about a player we can honestly and on the spot rattle off that players strengths and weaknesses to perspective college coaches.; If it’s not a good set of coaches, parents and kids, then we don’t want to exert the effort into that team. It’s being mindful of the amount of time we have and making sure we are devoting time to those kids who are going to excel and move on, and the coaches that have the same passion.
The program was fortunate in 2019 as we brought on three former players to coach in our 14U division. The addition of Sloan Walker, Thomasina Garza and Sarah Huey have had a significant impact on their respective teams. They bring energy, passion, discipline and an ultra-competitive mindset to the field for each practice and game played. DFE feels that we landed three of the best coaches that Houston has to offer. Our other coaching staff also consists of former college baseball and football players who have played at the next level.
Q: What’s the route you take in the search for players?
A: Externally, we look for good families, and probably focus more on the family first before the player. Once you check that box, we also tend to look at the person before the player, which is probably the opposite of all the big organizations. If the person has the demeanor that fits within our culture, we know they will succeed. We’re a little timid to bring someone who doesn’t fit the culture … then we have to end up cutting them, or exiting them, well, we don’t like attrition. We value keeping our players here, and the longer they are here, the smarter and sharper they are, and they get the longevity of being in the same program when college coaches are looking.
If the person fits the culture, we’ll take a chance on an athlete who isn’t where she needs to be, because we can get her skills caught back up. Big organizations routinely come after our kids, because of how fast they develop and how good they get in our program. The irony here, is that these were the same kids that were in front of them all along We constantly fight that fight, but it has gotten much better as we continue to have success in all age divisions.
We tell our parents that if you stay the course, your kid keeps doing what she’s doing and stepping up her skill level, she will play college ball and DFE will be the conduit for her. In 2019, our hard work paid off as several colleges started to recognize our program and our players. Through multiple discussions with coaches, it was very rewarding to receive positive feedback on our program and athletes.. We don’t have 16s and 18s by design, so there’s not a long list of commits, so parents have to take us at our word. They are entrusting us to take their kids to the next level, and in September of 2022, we’ll have that list and that proof. That will be a huge day for the organization and for the parents in our program; I’m sure there will be many tears and celebrations.
Effective January 1, 2020, Triple Crown Fastpitch will be using National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Softball rules with a few modifications.
While the pitcher takes the signal, her stride foot may be on or behind the pitcher’s plate as far back as desired. Once the pitcher initially sets the toe of her stride foot, she CANNOT move it to increase the distance behind the pitcher’s plate. In addition, the pitcher must take or appear to take a signal while in the pitching and signal-taking positions.
All pitches including a pitchout must be legally pitched to the catcher and ball is live.
Any option listed below may be used:
Option 1: Straight nine – Those nine can play any position on defense without reporting to the umpire.
Option 2: DP/Flex – 10 players are listed on the lineup, but only nine bat. The DP can bat for any player that you designate prior to the start of the game. That player is designated as the Flex and should be listed in the 10th spot on the lineup card. Any of the 10 players can play on defense.
Option 3: EH/EP – The option to bat 10 players and any nine can play defense. This player can be placed anywhere in the lineup.
Option 4: DP/Flex and the EP/EH – This allows you to have 11 players listed on the lineup; only 10 will bat and any nine of these players can play defensively. The Flex is listed at the bottom of the lineup.
RUN RULES and GAME TIMES:
Run rules and game times used will be per the Event Director’s discretion. The run rules and game times being used will be listed for each event under the rules section of the event website.
If you would like to order a NFHS Softball rule book, go to https://nfhs.com and select the 2020 Softball Rules Book. Triple Crown Sports DOES NOT receive any portion of the cost of the NFHS rule book; all proceeds go to NFHS.
Triple Crown Fastpitch is fortunate enough to connect with intriguing personalities from all reaches of the sport – we’ll be sitting down with some of these people and sharing their history in softball and their thoughts on important topics in the game.
As the heart, soul and engine behind the Justin’s World of Softball website, Justin McLeod has turned a personal passion into a thriving media enterprise. His site is one of the true go-to destinations for news about Division I softball – during the season his day is spent churning through the facts, figures and first-hand knowledge he pulls in from multiple sources. The site averages 55,000 unique views monthly, a number that spikes up significantly during the NCAA season and when coaching-change news is percolating.
Based in northeast Louisiana, McLeod can hop in his car on a given morning and be at sites in six different states before first pitch. He’s restless, with a deep well of contacts and informed opinions that make him a powerful and relevant voice in the ever-intriguing world of fastpitch that expands outside of NCAA developments.
Q: Gameday responsibilities certainly take up your time; how else do you juggle your workload?
A: On non-game days, I check scoreboards, feeds, getting the full scope of everything that’s happening, because there are only so many games I can watch. I head from SIDs, coaches, and I compile it all, and I have to have hard-written notes on a legal pad. As an Internet writer that sounds odd to say, but I can’t go without my legal pad.
I always try to put out two articles a day, even during the season, always some kind of writing. Weekend previews and reviews … I don’t like to write about anybody I haven’t seen, or gone back to watch (on video). During the week, I have at least one or two calls a day of interviews, or talking with coaches, staying as up to date as I can.
Q: You web presence began in 2012; your popularity as a media source is right in line with the spike in growth of appreciation for NCAA softball. That turned out nicely, didn’t it?
A: I started it by chance, at what turned out to be the perfect time. The way the game has grown … you’ve always had people into softball and an audience there, but what is new, people want information and not just what their kid is doing on their team, but also finding out what is going at a school across the country, because it’s softball. You see it in so many other sports. It just worked out, when I started it was at the beginning of that. When I started, there wasn’t much softball media.
Q: Another chance in the recent past – the news cycle in softball can be almost volatile, with coaching changes and player transfers. Is that good or bad for the game?
A: I think those things drive interest – coaching changes, without a doubt that drives a lot of my traffic. When I started, I said I’d track that, but for everybody, not just Power 5 and big schools. People want to keep up with that stuff, and I know a lot of coaches who want to keep up, because they might have a protégé they’re looking out for, or they may be looking themselves. At the same time, you’ve got the transfers … it’s a good thing for the kids to be able to transfer without a lot of regulation, but there should be some. With the transfer portal, it’s gone too far. It’s the same with the recruiting rules … it needed to be fixed, because there were people sitting on the doorstep of 7th and 8th graders, and they needed some breathing room. But now, I think it’s too strict.
The beauty of it is, being in the softball media world, and that world having grown to the level it is now, we play a role in that. Maybe we don’t need to write about every transfer like it’s the greatest thing ever; maybe we don’t write about 2024 prospects right now, maybe we don’t bring that attention to it and maybe that helps affect chance a bit. Even if it’s there, maybe we ease off the sensationalism … nobody wants to see an 8th grader picking her college!
Q: For all the terrific NCAA softball we see, a viable and thriving professional scene for the sport feels elusive, made tougher because there’s not a steady Olympics presence for softball to help generate excitement. Is there a route for pro softball in this country?
A: I do see something there. There are a lot of people who may not realize just what softball has to offer, but when they see it, they really enjoy it, they see the positive traits and it holds their interest. I think pro softball is a viable product; the current makeup of the pro softball league is almost set up to fail, though. There obviously needs to be changes, there needs to be adaptations, and there may need to be, straightforwardly, different people in charge. In and of itself, the product that is pro softball is very viable and can engage people and can build a fan base.
We have technology and all kinds of avenues that can be utilized, if they’re done right, to help something like this blossom. You’re not seeing those things taken advantage of. Things need to happen approach-wise, marketing-wise, but I think pro softball presented the right way can be very good at bringing in people that wouldn’t normally watch it. It’s exciting and engaging. It’s something that could succeed and very likely will if the right people are in place and the right changes are made. It could and should succeed.
This weekend’s Triple Crown Fastpitch event in southern California will do more than just sharpen the skills of players and give parents a chance to support the dreams of their daughters.
In fact, support is the underlying theme of the second annual Play for Hope Memorial Tournament, which will be played May 11-12 in and around Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley. The event was renamed to honor the memory of Emma Pangelinan, a skilled softball player who took her own life in 2018 and has come to symbolize the perilous state of mental health in youth all around the country.
At this year’s tournament, there will be more dedicated effort to confront the issue, as all the action will stop (every field, every location) for about an hour on Saturday as organizers will livestream a presentation at Huntington Beach Sports Complex designed to increase awareness of what undermines the mental health of teenagers.
"I have spent the last 15 years at the ball field and have seen the game grow so much, yet more and more young girls seem to feel inadequate largely in part to the 'pressures' of the game," said Travis Cotsenmoyer, director of SoCal Fastpitch for Triple Crown. "I have four kids under the age of 8, and three who are girls. I obviously worry about them and these same feelings they will soon face. I hope this message can help many young people be successful, have fun, and be confident in themselves while doing it."
Confirmed speakers are collegiate coaching legend Sue Enquist, Firecrackers softball coach Tony Rico, Jen Schroeder of the Packaged Deal softball program, softball parent Melissa Romero and psychologist Dr. Casey Cooper. There will be team activities during the hour; the livestream begins at 11:30 a.m. PT.
Participating players will be given a butterfly sticker to be placed on their batting helmet, intended to signal a higher appreciation for self-confidence and self-worth.
This tournament will break ground again by implementing #SilentSunday, where in the first inning of the first game Sunday, ONLY athletes and umpires are encouraged to have their voices heard. It’s an experiment to see how the environment of fastpitch might look without some of the typical static coming from the stands and dugouts.
“We are excited about our tournament takeover and Silent Softball campaign to help draw awareness around allowing girls to have fun playing and not feeling the pressure to be perfect,” said Enquist.
You can watch the livestream from the Play for Hope Memorial Tournament here: