Saturday July 24th, 2021
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An interview with USSSA Texas Softball Director Greg Huchingson

Greg Huchingson

 

Danny Brown at the 2010 USSSA Hall of Fame Banquet, giving Greg Huchingson the Assistant Executive Directors Award


Why do you like the game of softball?

It is a way for those who participated in sports during their youth, high school and even college to continue competing for the rest of their lives if they want to.   And there is a place for players of all skill levels.   Camaraderie amongst teammates, opponents and even the officials is as much a part of the attraction as the actual physical activity.

Who is the best softball player you have ever seen?

Softball is about scoring runs, and the best hitter I ever saw was Wendell Rickard, who I had the privilege of coaching for a couple of seasons.   He was unstoppable.

The best all-around player I have ever seen would have to be Rusty Bumgardner.    He is easily one of the Top 5 hitters of all-time and, in his prime, his teams did not have to burn a "big boy" position (C, 1B, EH) on him, as he could play 2B or 3B and hold his own defensively.

Rick Scherr, Charles Wright and Mike Macenko are others who probably also fit this bill, but I did not personally see any of them play in their prime; although I did persuade Big Cat to come out of retirement in 2000 and play a few tournaments with my up-and-coming team. He was a great leader.

Where do you call home?

College Station, Texas.

Kevin Naegele asked me to point out that College Station is the home of the 2011 NCAA Women's Basketball National Champion Texas A&M Aggies (and also near the Texas Autobahn).

What do you do for a living?

After spending 27 years in the newspaper industry, I started my own Sports Management company 4 years ago.   We conduct sporting events (primarily adult slow-pitch softball) throughout Texas year-round.   It would not be possible without the support we get from Tim Lord, Dennis Turner and the folks at Worth Sports.

What is your softball background as a player, manager, sponsor, and director?

PLAYER: I have been playing softball for 30+ years. I played the "rover" position in the outfield at first, but gravity quickly changed that and I moved to first base.   Not long after that, the EH position was invented and I found my natural position! I have been a player/coach since very early in my career, and it is much easier to handle those dual roles as an EH than as, say, a pitcher/coach or shortstop/coach.   Too many distractions for a position player to also manage a team.   We were always very good around the house (25 consecutive years as city champions) and were also pretty good throughout Texas.   Won multiple Texas State Championships in Major, A, B, C and Co-ed over the years.   Won back-to-back Co-ed World titles in the mid-1990s (NSA).   Thank you, Marie Pesch. I always hit for a pretty good average, but nothing beats the thrill of knocking the ball over the fence.

MANAGER/SPONSOR: I was a smart enough manager to surround myself with the best players I could possibly find.   Eventually, that forced me out of the lineup.   But that's OK; I got just as much satisfaction out of organizing and coaching teams that won championships as I did from actually playing.   Starting in the late mid-to-1990s, we began playing more outside of Texas and trying to earn recognition on a national level.   We had several Top 10 finishes at ASA Class A and Major (ASA's version of AA) National Tournaments. Went to the ASA Super a few times, finishing as high as 4th.   Eventually, we became a USSSA Major team, but never won the big one.   We did once climb as high as No. 2 in the national rankings in 2002.

DIRECTOR: After hosting my hometown tournament for 20 years, I was approached about becoming an Area Director for one association.   I agreed and enjoyed the work, and all my time with them.   But when Don DeDonatis, Danny Brown and Kevin Naegele approached me about the possibility of joining USSSA, I was intrigued.   The more I checked into their association, the more I liked it, and in September 2008 I was named the South Texas USSSA State Director.   I have enjoyed every minute of it, and look forward to a long and rewarding career with USSSA.

How did you get your start in softball and how did you get to the upper level?

I reluctantly began playing in 1979 right out of high school.   I say "reluctantly" because I preferred playing basketball back then, and thought underhand softball was a sissy game.   I swung a wood bat my first year, as did most in my area.   I quickly developed an appreciation and passion for the sport.   When I grew tired of seeing unqualified "coaches" I played for batting themselves first and playing shortstop, I organized my first team in 1983.   I had no idea this whole national circuit was even around back then.

After playing my first 15 years with only players from Bryan-College Station, we got greedy and picked up a big slugger from a nearby city. In less than a year, after a good showing at a Major N.I.T., he left us for a national team. My co-sponsor was so pissed off  he went out and started recruiting out-of-state players himself. First, we added Larry Carter, John Heller and Derrick Williams to play ASA with us on weekends they weren't playing USSSA with Sunnyvale. Next, we added the twins, Jeff & Jerold Smith, from Virginia. Our big break came when a good friend of ours from Houston, Shane Dubose, was left without a team in 2001 but still had an Easton contract. Easton picked up the majority of the tab for us to have Shane, as well as Tim Cocco and Scott King. Next thing you know, we changed over to Worth and had guys like Wendell Rickard, Keith Brockman, Jimmy Devine, Kyle Cowart, Timmy Howard, Judson Jackson and the list goes on. By 2003, our last year on the circuit, we only had three Texas players on the whole team – Jon Meyers (a Major List player), Kevin Johnson and Shane McCullough (a transplant from Washington state). The 6 or 7 years we played competitive ball were my most enjoyable times in the sport. I was able to see places I have never seen before, nor would I have ever seen if it had not been for softball.

Tell us a little about the Houston Major coming up on June 3-5 and how many teams are you expecting?

The Space City Classic is played at Big League Dreams in League City, Texas (a Houston suburb).   It has had 48 teams each of the past two years, making it the largest Conference event in both 2009 and 2010.   We are expecting it to reach that level, or even higher this year.   We just don't get the notoriety that some of the other more established tournaments get.

Big League Dreams has brand, new artificial turf infields on all 6 fields (including the batter's boxes), recently installed after damage from Hurricane Ike.   Each of the 6 fields is a replica of a current or former Major League ballpark, such as Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and others.   This year, for the first time and at DW's request, we are making home runs completely clear the entire wall (and not just the painted yellow lines) to be counted as home runs.   It will be fun.

Another thing we do for B, C and D teams, is have separate single-elimination brackets for them to play in on Sunday after they have been eliminated from the main double-elimination Conference bracket.

What are your big tournaments for 2011?

This year will mark my 26th Annual Budweiser Softball Festival in Bryan-College Station, Texas.   We had 24 teams the very first year back in 1986, but grew to 301 teams by last year.   The tournament begins at 8 a.m. Saturday and runs non-stop around-the-clock on 17 fields until midnight Sunday night.   In 2010, Budfest was named the USSSA Midwest Division Tournament of the Year, thanks to all my good assistants, like Heavy Roy Dean, Scott Duffy, Ben Templeton, Phillip Wheeler, Bennie Scott, Jason Fort and others.

We are very fortunate to be affiliated with the two Big League Dreams complexes in Texas (League City and Mansfield) which teams love to play at. We are at each of those parks at least one weekend a month year-round. We also do a Lone Star Shootout World Tournament in October at Big League Dreams in Las Vegas. Time Warner Park in San Antonio is another one of our regular partners.

What separates USSSA from the other sanctioning bodies when it comes to slowpitch?

It starts at the top.   The leadership of USSSA is versatile enough to make changes when they need to be made without having to go through the bureaucracy and political process of convincing the majority of a huge voting block that they are the right things to do.   I have the ultimate respect for Don DeDonatis, Danny Brown and all the Vice Presidents of USSSA.   Some people like to sit back and take pot-shots at them from the peanut gallery on websites, but they have no idea the amount of work those people do on a daily basis for the betterment of this sport.

One other thing – they ISTS system is the greatest invention since Edison produced the light bulb.   I use it 365 days a year for the benefit of my program.   At this point, I have no idea how I made it as far as I did without it.   Kudos Kelly Burke.

What is your favorite sports team?

Dallas Cowboys

What is your favorite sport other than softball?

Pro Football

Do you have any superstitions and if so, what are they?

Never allow expenses to exceed revenues.

What is your most memorable softball moment?

As a player, it was winning my first Texas State Championship back in 1986 and hitting 4 home runs in the championship game.

As a coach/sponsor, it was run-ruling Long Haul/TPS in the Saturday night show game at The Smoky Mountain Classic in 2002.   That was the first time they had ever been run-ruled.   Then, we beat Dan Smith the next morning in the king seat game, only to eventually get double-dipped by Dan Smith in two very close games for the championship.

As a Director, receiving the Assistant Executive Director's Award from Danny Brown at the 2010 USSSA Hall of Fame Banquet in Daytona Beach.

Is slow-pitch softball a sport or a game?

I do not understand why this question is still asked in every interview.   Darts is a game. Monopoly is a game.   Tiddlywinks is a game.   Slow-pitch softball is a sport.   Period.

What is the best improvement upper level softball could make to bring in more sponsors?

The only way to bring in more sponsors is to create more wealth in the country … so vote Republican.

In the mean time, players should show more appreciation for the few sponsors that are still around willing to foot the bill for them to play softball.   If every player thanked their sponsor each and every weekend, like Jeff & Jerold Smith used to do us, there would be a whole lot more sponsors still in this game.

What is your favorite non-World tournament?

My favorites are the ones I am hosting! Outside of those, I would say the Smoky Mountain Classic.   The atmosphere there is like no other.   The Dudley in Minnesota and The Busch in Little Rock are two others right up there.

What can be done to improve the Conference Championships?

The Conference is the best thing that ever happened to upper level ball.   If not for the Conference, upper ball would be completely extinct by now.   I can't describe how disappointing it was to schedule a tournament, book flights, travel 1,500 miles across the country, and then end up playing in a 5-team, half-day tournament.   I only wish the Conference was around back when I was still in upper ball.

Improvement?  I would like to see it grow to eventually include C and D divisions as well, but ONLY if teams are classified properly and not allowed to slide down the ladder to a level they think they can dominate.

Is the game better or worse with homerun limits and why?

I guess I have to admit that it is more competitive with the HR limits.   But I am an old school guy who enjoyed the high-scoring, 2-to-3 hour games back when we had unlimited home runs.   No matter how far you were down, you could always come back as long as your guys could keep knocking the ball over the fence.

Who was the best team in softball history?

Most people say the Steele's Silver Bullets barnstorming teams of 1998-1990.   Before that there was Elite Coatings, Campbell's Carpet, and Howard's Furniture.   But since I never played any of those teams, I'm going to cast my vote for the 2001 Long Haul/TPS team that won the Grand Slam of Softball (ASA, ISA, NSA, USSSA).

What do you remember as the high point of upper level softball in the United States?

The 1990's.   Reading the reports in Jerome Earnest's newsletter and websites is what made me aspire to reach that level.   I don't think softball has dwindled since then as much as many people seem to think.   What HAS happened since then, for many players, is their motivation to reach the top of the sport has changed to play as low of a level as they can convince a director to let them play.   I know that the best C teams in Texas today are every bit as good as my A and AA teams were back in the 1990s.   Change the letters B, C, D and E today to AA, A, B and C and you would have the same numbers as 1995.   There have always been 2 or 3 Major teams that were significantly better than most others.

What is the funniest thing you have ever seen on a softball field?

At the 2002 Cajun Classic in Louisiana, we were beating the brakes off Hague/Resmondo in the championship game.   One of their high profile players (also from Houston) wasn't taking it too well and started chirping at Shane Dubose, who was pitching for us.   When a couple of derogatory replies didn't shut him up, Shano stopped his pitching motion in mid-delivery, dropped his glove and the ball on the ground with his arms to the side like Marshal Dillon in a gunfight, drew a line in the sand with the toe of his cleat and said "I want you to bring your ass out here right now and I'm gonna whip it in front of everybody."  Classic Shano.   The guy finally shut up.

Besides that, it would have to be Punchin' Judy (a guy) on my league team taking a whiz at his position in left field while we were making a pitching change.   At least his back was turned from the crowd.

Greg slugging one in his playing days

2006 Minute Maid Park homerun contest

"Budweiser Kings of Swing" who hit at that event. Left to
right are Jeff Wallace, Scott Striebel, Rusty Bumgardner R.J. Howerton,
Jeff Hall and Shane Dubose

Greg and Texas A&M Women's Basketball Head Coach Gary Blair (2011 NCAA Champs)

2007 Texas Class C State Champions (highest division offered
in Texas that year).   Front row far left is USSSA Major List player Jon
Myers.   Back row third from left (next to me) is Kevin Ballard, who is
playing for Sonny's this year

  GregGreg and Texas native Cat Osterman at the 2010 USSSA Convention Trade Show  

 


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