Monday, September 1, 2014

Where Are They Now: Kristina Thorson

Kristina Thorson just a *bit* before she became an
internationally-renowned star.
(Pic used by permission of John Thorson.)
Who is she? Kristina "Thor" Thorson, a legendary pitcher formerly of the Cal Bears in college and Chicago Bandits and Akron Racers in the National Pro Fastpitch league.

What is she known for? In short, for being one of the most legendary and memorable pitchers in recent history and memory. During the dominant years of Bears softball, Thorson led the pitching staff and even still holds many program pitching records and ranks highly in the categories where she is not numero uno. After college, she spent more than 2/3 of a decade in the National Pro Fastpitch league and played in professional leagues in both Italy and Austria on the European continent.

You might not know... that Kristina is, in her own words, "a total geek". She clarifies that that's applicable mainly with the sciences and sci-fi. In an interview on in 2012, Thor was asked about the school's influence on her career path, and her answer to that question even further shows that "geek" is a very, very good thing in this case. She said, "I was actually one of the rare kids who goes into college knowing what they wanted to study. Going into Cal, I wanted to study public health, specifically epidemiology. However, my education at Cal slightly shifted my focus from epidemiology to infectious diseases, and also opened the door of exercise physiology and exercise science to me. I am looking to get a masters in either of those fields now, if I can't eventually do both." "Winter is coming!" she adds.

What's she up to now? Softball-wise, Thor continues to give back to the game following her premature retirement from playing thanks to lingering injuries. Besides giving pitching lessons in California, she is also coaching a 12U travel team that is local to her, the NorCal Shockers.

Contact information: Though her personal website is no longer online, "Thor" still maintains a regular presence on social media; you can find her on Facebook here or on Twitter @kthorson1.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tress Way Makes Washington Redskins Roster

After the Washington Redskins of the NFL trimmed their roster to the league-mandated fifty-three by the Saturday afternoon deadline, it became official that Oklahoma graduate Tress Way will be on the team's Opening Day roster when they play their first regular-season game against the Texans in Houston on September 7th.
Photo cred: Brianna Way via Facebook

Way, a 2012 graduate from OU, was waived by the Bears in the middle of last week. He was claimed on waivers by the Redskins shortly thereafter. Though initially expected simply to provide little more than competition for incumbent third-year pro Robert Malone, Way averaged more than 51 yards/punt in two punts during Thursday night's game against the Buccaneers. The excellent performance impressed coaches, and Malone was released.

Tress Way is married to former OU softball star Brianna Turang. Turang starred for Patty Gasso's Sooners for four seasons, helping lead them to the 2013 National Championship. She followed her collegiate career with a single season with the Akron Racers in the NPF.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lauren Kennewell to Compete for Miss Texas USA This Weekend

Former Iowa State pitcher & iTrain Softball instructor Lauren Kennewell will compete for the Miss Texas USA title in Houston this weekend. Kennewell represents Miss Dallas in the competition.

A four-year hurler for the Cyclones, playing from 2008-2012, this is not the first pageant that Kennewell has competed in. She competed in the Miss Iowa USA 2013 pageant, finishing as a semi-finalist.

The Miss Texas competition is taking place at the Hilton Houston Post Oak Hotel in Houston this weekend. The preliminary show will take place Saturday night, while the final show will take place on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm local time.

Southern Miss Names New Coach

Fresh off the belated-yet-still-relevant story we published Tuesday on the resignation of Southern Miss co-head softball coaches Jon & Kristen Voak Malgradi, the school announced that Wendy Hogue will take the reins of the Golden Eagles program.

Hogue comes from William Carey University, an NAIA school where she has spent the past ten seasons. William Carey is only miles away from Southern Miss' campus in Hattiesburg.

Hogue's career record at WCU is 321-140, close to a 70% winning percentage, and has been awarded numerous individual and coaching staff honors. She played at WCU from the program's inception in 1995 to her graduation in 1998. She began her career under the tutelage of current Baylor head coach Glenn Moore.

Hogue inherits a Golden Eagles squad that finished 2014 with a 22-31 record, including a 10-14 result in conference play.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Southern Miss Coaching Staff Resigns; Replacements Expected Within Weeks

As first reported by the Hattiesburg [Mississippi] American, Southern Miss co-head softball coaches Jon Malgradi and Kirsten Voak (a married couple) have resigned their positions at the helm of the program.

In three seasons (2012-2014) leading the Golden Eagles program, the duo led the squad to a 49-106 record and an 18-51 mark in conference play. The team finished tenth out of thirteen teams in the conference in 2014, ahead of UTEP, Louisiana Tech, and Middle Tennessee.

Prior to coming to Southern Miss in fall of 2011, Voak spent several years at Arizona State, her alma mater, serving on Clint Myers' staff. In 2008, the Sun Devils' championship season, Voak was part of the National Coaching Staff of the Year.

Malgradi's pre-USM experience consisted of three seasons at the helm of Mesa Community College and a single season at Central Arizona College in 2008. His own athletic career as a baseball pitcher at Fresno State, was cut short due to injuries.

Assistant coach Grady Moorhead also resigned, leaving Golden Eagles administrators with a completely-empty coaching roster to fill.

Following the co-head coaches' resignation, USM athletic director Bill McGillis expects to name a successor "in the next two weeks and just keep rolling", according to a statement.

The Golden Eagles 2015 senior class includes just hurler Shelbee Rodgers, the proverbial ace of the staff and a former Louisiana-Lafayette transfer. Recently-graduated slugger Mackenzie Sher is listed as a Graduate Assistant coach on the team's official roster.

Gerry Glasco Steps Into Justin's World

Even before his USSSA Pride team took home the 2014 Cowles Cup, Gerry Glasco was a name well-known in softball circles. A longtime assistant coach at the University of Georgia and credited with having a hand in the development and enormous success of players such as Megan Wiggins and Kristyn Sandberg, his off-season move to Texas A&M has already been one of the most discussed moves in college softball over the summer.

In his six seasons with the Dawgs under Lu Harris-Champer, Glasco coached an elite handful of players who not only recorded stellar collegiate careers but moved on to continue their careers at the professional level. Wiggins and Sandberg, the 2013 NPF MVP and 2012 Rookie the Year, respectively, are two of the biggest names among the bunch that also includes Alisa Goler; Taylor Schlopy; and Bri Hesson.

Prior to his collegiate coaching career beginning at Georgia, Glasco was a high school and travel ball coach for many years. His three daughters all played softball at the collegiate level and one went on to continue her career in the pros; youngest daughter Geri Ann spent the first two seasons of her career with her dad at Georgia, but herself transferred to the Oregon Ducks this off-season.

A small-town boy from the very beginning, Glasco is originally from the state of Illinois. Attending high school at the 120-member Crab Orchard, Illinois HS, he played "every" sport as a youngster. Whether it be on the baseball diamond, the basketball court, or the track, Glasco's involvement in athletics began early in life. He credits a coach from those years as one of his own coaching role models: "Our Coach Richard Powers was a great coach and a role model for me as a coach every single day! Coach Powers was a huge factor in our daily lives for our four years of high school and I feel like he taught me a lot about how to handle athletes and balance out the importance of winning, having fun, and being great teammates."

2014 was Glasco's first season as head coach of the Pride, and we (finally) continue our series of interviews with 2014 NPF newcomers by getting his take on several things. Please note that this interview was conducted several weeks ago; it was intended for publication during the championship series, but we decided to instead start your week off on a high note with this great interview! 

How long have you been involved with the game of softball? How did you first get involved with the sport?
I began coaching in the early ‘90s at the 10U level with my oldest daughter Tara’s city recreation league teams.

If you could, just give a brief overview of your career; your “coaching resume”.
I began coaching 10U, then 12U “pony” softball, 14U, then high school and Junior High School before starting the Southern Force Gold in 2000, which I coached from 2000-2008 before joining the UGA staff for the 2008-09 season.

How did you first hear about the NPF?
I began following the NPF back when it started, as I feel we need to support women’s softball in an effort to grow our sport. Then I became even more familiar with it as Kristin Schnake, a former Southern Force and U of Georgia player and Erin, my middle daughter, joined the USSSA Pride in the summer of 2009.

Before your current position came about, was coaching in the professional league something you’d considered or desired to do?
I always thought it would be a learning experience to coach these great players of the game and study their mental approach, find out what motivates them to be the best, learn from a coaching standpoint how to allow them to play at their peak performance level, etc. As far as coaching at that level, no, I had never really given it a lot of thought until the Pride called and asked if I might be interested.

How would you describe your coaching style?
I can vary my coaching style to whatever I feel it needs to be. In junior high ball, I coached completely different than in 18U Gold, and obviously in college in an even different style. I want the players to feel like they are ready to perform when they walk on the field; I want them to know that their coaching staff will go to war for them in a game, and I want the players to be comfortable and able to communicate with our staff. Bottom line is to get our players to play at their highest level, we will have to work hard and, just as important, have fun in competition.

With the league as small as it is right now, do you see the opportunities for growth in the future?
Absolutely! Softball is a great game. A great game for spectators, and fans throughout the country love the game of fast pitch softball. It is a unique sport in that it consistently creates a lot of excitement in a short period of time and is played by many different types of athletes. Speed, power, defense, intelligence, guts… they are all traits of the game that are consistently found in all great spectator sports.

Even with it just being a “summer job”, is coaching in the pros something you’d be interested in doing long-term?
It is not just a “summer job” for me! I want to help the Pride team become the most dominant softball team and win a championship! The owner Don DeDonatis and the GM Gordon Glennie and the whole Pride staff have done so much for our sport and the girls in the NPF, so I want to give them all that I have to make this season a special time and occasion for the whole Pride organization.  We want to create an environment where our players can have a great and exciting season, yet in which they learn about themselves as players and individuals and come together as a team that performs at their highest level possible on the field!

What is something you were most looking forward to about coaching in the NPF this summer?
The little things, like getting to watch great athletes such as Caitlin Lowe slap in her BP sessions and giving her the time and commitment to see her go into a game with total confidence that she is ready… getting to watch Natasha Watley perform on the field and run the bases… getting to study the mindset of perhaps the greatest pitcher ever in the history of fast pitch, Cat Osterman in her bullpen sessions and in the moments of the big game!  Getting to see the great young players on the Pride learn from and compete with the tremendous veteran players on a daily basis! There are so many things to get excited about that it is difficult to name only a few, but nothing is more exciting than the simple goal of winning!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given or been given?
Work hard, have fun, and enjoy every moment of life as it only lasts a little while!

Who would you say is your “hero” and how does that person inspire you in your work as a coach today? 
Coach Champer at Georgia has been so important to me as coach. When I coached travel ball, she was always in the background, encouraging me and telling me that I had special qualities as a coach. Then for several years she gave me the opportunity to join her staff at Georgia before I was able to. Then when the timing to join her staff was right, she had the confidence, vision, and leadership ability to give me great freedom in recruiting for our program at UGA. Coach Champer is a genius in so many ways about the sport of fastpitch and I want to see her get that CWS and SEC Championship ring that I feel she deserves!  
The mandatory final question: Say you were stranded on a deserted island and could take three things with you. No boats, no phones. What would you carry along? 
Well, you probably don’t know this, but I was a duck and quail hunting guide for 25 years on the gulf coast of Mexico. So, seriously, I have been stranded several times on islands, and I would do now what I did then! Find some shade, go to sleep, enjoy the peace and quiet and get some well-deserved rest! Hope they find me soon, but not too soon and enjoy the moment!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kristen Butler Interview

Let's kick NPF Championship Day #2 off with another Bandits interview. (In case you're wondering, we will end up finishing out this series after the season ends).

This is likely Kristen Butler's final season in the NPF. Finishing up her seventh season in the league, Butler has been one of the finest players in the league year-in and year-out. In all honesty, she had the opportunity to become the marquee player w/o the Olympic background that the NPF needs, but content to do her part and contribute to the team, she quietly put together solid season after solid season and has been a huge part of the Bandits' success the last several seasons.

As her career winds down in Hoover, this may be one of the final interviews you see with Kristen Butler, the player. But as she embarks on a new position as head coach at Toledo, plenty of interviews with Kristen Butler, the head coach will soon be appearing on the interwebs!