With two daughters who not only loved softball, but also had the tenacity to truly develop their talent, Darrell Landry ended up doing what a lot of fathers do in that situation — start coaching.
Landry, 54, is the general manager of the Marucci Patriots, based in and around Baton Rouge, LA. The Louisiana Patriots date back to the 1970s; Landry’s daughter Courtney jumped in with the Patriots in 2004, and Bailey also came through the system and graduated from LSU in 2017.
As coach, Landry started in an era where local tournaments drew the interest of teams and parents, but as that changed with the maturation of club softball, so did Landry. He had coached Ascension Catholic High School to a state championship game in 2009; soon he saddled up with the Patriots and brought back the defunct 18u program in 2012.
The Patriots have been a factor ever since, not playing very much in Louisiana any more but looking to get players and teams on the road, in elite competitions, in front of college coaches. Landry visited the Triple Crown Sports offices a few weeks ago and sat down to share a little history and perspective on the game he loves.
Q: As you took over the 18u piece of the Patriots, what were your priorities?
A: I saw it as an opportunity to get kids seen at the collegiate level, and to get them prepared. That was my whole focus; local tournaments didn’t mean a whole lot. I can have all the T-shirts and trophies I want with the kids I could develop, but the idea was to get these kids a college scholarship. I wanted them to be serious; this wasn’t a hang-out situation. In 2012, all five seniors all signed, and nine signed next year. We started off in big tournaments and didn’t know what we were doing, to be honest.
My team has always been based on Louisiana kids; I won’t go out and recruit from six different states, eight states away, pay someone’s way or buy kids. Our players are developed through our program. Just running the 18s, I didn’t have control of the organization, and I found I was rebuilding that 18u team every year. With the 14s and 16s – I couldn’t (control development). I might take two or three, or I might not. I had to go looking for kids around the state and area.
Q: How did Marucci get involved with the Patriots?
A: Marucci had approached me before. They came back when they wanted to get into softball (the company is based in Baton Rouge), and they saw us as the premier club in the state. They wanted to learn from us, see what elite players are looking for, and I thought it would be good for kids to see that part of the company grow from scratch. Marucci had no knowledge of softball. Those first bats weren’t very good, and we gave them feedback. They’d lay out a bunch of unmarked bats and ask, how’s it feel? When it came to gloves, the girls want it up their wrist tight, with Velcro … and they kept adjusting things through our feedback. We were part of that first group that helped design their products, and there was value for our kids to see how a company grows.
Q: What’s something about upper-level softball that troubles you?
A: This early recruiting thing – it gets on my nerves. I don’t have 7th or 8th graders committed, and I would advise any of my kids not to. I don’t feel it’s fair to a kid or a coach. It’s almost like exploitation; there’s no way you can know where a kid is going to be (developmentally) in four or five years. Life changes so much and you don’t know where the kids’ dreams or work ethic might be at; it can change dramatically either way. We have these young kids coming to us, and their No. 1 question is, how do I get recruited? When my daughters came through, it was about learning the fundamentals of the game and getting better every day.
I had a freshman get a huge offer from a huge school; I didn’t think she was ready, and I advised her not to commit. And I told the coach the same thing.
I’m not going to lie to a college coach. I tell them about strengths and weaknesses. I never oversell a kid; never have and never will. The kid needs to know, too – their life is going to change.
Q: What keeps you coming back to the diamond year after year?
A: I’ve always been competitive as a person, player and coach. It’s always about getting to the next level and winning that big crown, but also seeing the kids have success. I’m at the point where kids I coached have graduated from college; last year, I had two kids (Louisiana State’s Bailey Landry and Arizona transfer Aleah Craighton) make first-team NFCA All-American who played for my first team, two of the three outfield spots, and they only lived a mile apart. And you’re talking about thousands of kids playing softball … I’m not saying I had a lot to do with it, but there it is.
Those are fulfilling moments. Also, my niece (Megan Landry) at Nicholls State, she’s been pitching since she was a freshman. What she does is amazing; she’s a Godly kid, and I can see her Godliness spreading to other kids on that team. That program has been winning, and I think it has something to do with us because we’ve sent two or three there every year the last four or five years. There was a game where seven of the starting nine was from my program! I was proud of that.
We had 71 seniors from 2012 to now, and all have signed college scholarships and played. To me, it could change their lives. You send kids off, and there’s a good chance it creates a direction in their life, hopefully for the good, where maybe they meet the person of their dreams and a partner for life. And you had a part of that.