How Ray Seymour left a Legacy for a new Generation of Successors.
by Ryan Greenwood – Fastpitch Network
This year will mark the 40th anniversary for the Tampa Mustangs travel softball organization. It is one of the oldest and most successful organizations on the national stage. Since the summer of 1981, the club has won 27 National Championships in each of the age divisions and had over 400 players to go on to play college softball at over 60 different colleges.
Founder Ray Seymour, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 72, and his wife, Cathy, started the travel softball organization to give local girls an opportunity to continue to play competitively at a high level after their local recreational leagues were finished. They were the first travel softball team on the West Coast of Florida.
BYU softball is the epitome of the word consistency.
The Cougars have done nothing but win over the last decade and a half. BYU has won a conference championship each of the last 11 years, continuing to grab conference titles despite playing in four different conferences (Mountain West, Western Athletic, Pacific Coast and currently the West Coast).
Head coach Gordon Eakin has been there 18 years now, with his team posting a winning record in each of them. The Cougars are currently on a run of 15 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, and they broke through to the Super Regionals in 2010.
There was no NCAA Tournament in the COVID-19-shortened 2020, but the Cougars were 14-9 and playing well when the season was shuttered.
When Warren Wolfe started the Ohio Outlaws organization with just one team back in 2009, his plans were much bigger than just staying local. He had a vision to grow an organization to help the players in the area get more exposure during the recruiting process and to compete on a national level.
“I started the Ohio Outlaws because there was no one in the states of Ohio, West Virginia or Western Pennsylvania taking the girls to play the best competition and getting them the college exposure they deserved,” stated Wolff.
Although they started out playing locally as the program was getting its foundation established, they started to hit their stride as they expanded their playing area to compete on a regional level. From there, they got the attention of coaches and players from these tournaments. They started to see an interest in others wanting to be part of what they were doing.
As Beverly Smith heads into her 11th season at the helm as head coach of the South Carolina softball program, who better to deal with change and the often-heard phrase “new normal.” She has dealt with change since she took over the program in 2010. That change resulted in the Gamecocks going to NCAA postseason play 7 of the 10 years. Those changes saw her become only the 2nd softball coach in South Carolina history to get over 300 career wins.
That experience in dealing with adjustments and the ability to stay on top of the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 world that we all work to adjust to, could be the difference in how the season plays out for the Gamecocks.
The Aurburn Tigers have burst on the scene the past several years, making trip to the WCWS in 2015 and 2016, and in his fourth season at Auburn Mickey Dean has his tigers eyes set on returning back to Oklahoma City. They were on their way in the 2019-20 season as they started the season 16-11with wins over Notre Dame, #25 Northwestern and #18 Minnesota. That was until COVID-19 halted and ultimately ended the season. Dean recalls getting the call during the middle of a mid-week home game informing him the NCAA was shutting things down and ultimately sending all students home. Dean tried to use this a teaching moment to his student athletes, about life and that things are unexpected while encouraging them play every game as their last.
The organization has been competing at a national level for several years and finally broke through in the summer of 2019, as Nate Eaton’s 14u team won the Triple Crown/USA Nationals championship in Georgia.
Eaton’s team finished in third at nationals the year prior but triumphed by beating the Texas Bombers to cap off a 9-0 run through the tournament.
Eaton’s group, which now competes at the 16u level, is one of over 20 teams in the Team NC program, but its story is one that epitomizes what the fastpitch organization is all about.