Thursday July 29th, 2021

An interview with Steve Whaley



Steve Whaley

USSSA Playing History

Interview 1/4/2019

Who are you playing with in 2019, and who have you played with in the past?
West Coast Monsta 2019
Linedrive/R&M Metals
R&M Metals/Easton
Wood Law
Cash Plus Pawn/Wood Law

What positions do you play and what is your best position?
Anywhere in the infield but made my name as a 5 man

Who is the best softball player you have ever seen play?
Andy Purcell and it’s not close in my mind. I’ve never seen anyone dominate two sides of the ball like him. I can’t stand losing to him (which I’ve done a lot in my career) but I love competing against him. Travis Clark would be next in line for me. Like Andy he does it on both sides. I can remember when he first came up he hit at the bottom of the lineup and played everywhere. Now he’s one of the best on the mound and at the plate. I have a ton of respect for him stepping up to pitch and perfecting his craft. Junior, Bryson Baker, Kyle Pearson, Ryan Harvey, Shannon Smith, Chente Granados, Flip Washington, Brian Wegman, Andrew Collins, Argen Dodds, Reyna, Briggs, Bazat, Brungardt, Big John Williams, and Yates are others that usually leave me in awe. Some of those pained me to say.

Why do you like the game of softball?
Helmer once told me after we won the A World in 2012 that I had just experienced a high I would spend years chasing. That year I went from liking the sport to loving it and Helmer was right about chasing that high. I’ve won a lot since then but nothing was as great as the first one.

Who is the best up and coming player in softball and why?
Brady Stewart – kid is a stud on both sides of the ball and is only going to get better. TDB will be kicking themselves for not keeping him.
David “Lazer” Johnson – plays anywhere really well, hits seeds in ASA (will eventually be the same in USSSA), and is a great teammate. I told several sponsors they’d regret not picking him up in 2019 and I promise they will.
Jared Hunt – won the AA with Pure this past year but hasn’t even started to tap in to his potential.
Tim Martinez – super skinny Tim will figure things out soon and is going to be a beast. He doesn’t even know how good of a hitter he can be.
Derek Von Heeder – will be a very good hitter if he continues to work at it.
Wade Gibson – Once he learns how strong he is and that others around him need to play the game for him he will be a .700 hitter with a ton of homers in hot weather tournaments.
Zach Saint Pierre – defensively could help a AA team now. Once he figures out he isn’t a switch hitter he will be a dangerous hitter from the left side.

What is your nickname in softball and how did you get it?
Way Way or Harvest is what I hear the most from the guys I run around with. Shannon Smith never misses an opportunity to call me Harvest.

What is your height and weight?
6’ 215

Where do you call home?
Spring, TX

What's your favorite way to spend an off weekend?
Chasing my kids with my wife. I don’t know if you will find a parent that enjoys pulling their hair out more while chasing their kids around than me.

What do you do for a living?
Strategic Sales Executive for FedEx Services

Did you play sports in High School / College / Pro?
4 years of Baseball in college at Eastfield Community College and Arkansas Monticello. Signed an independent contract with the San Angelo Colts but never stepped on the field for them. Buy me a couple drinks and I might tell you the entire story.

How did you get your start in softball and how did you get to the upper level?
I had just moved back to Texas from Arkansas and agreed to play in a backyarder festival tournament with some coworkers. During our third or fourth game we ran in to a team called The Big Apple Wrecking Crew. During the game they went from hitting a million homers to trying to kill me at Short Stop. Apparently it wasn’t cool to get soaked up by a guy with an 11-1/4 glove who was wearing shorts and high top Easton cleats that were a size to big. After the tournament their coach Jeff Schumann asked me to come play with them. They were the top B team in the state of Texas at the time. I think we lasted 4 tournaments before we broke up. Our starting CENTER FIELDER, LC Watson went to the top A team inTexas, Cash Plus Pawn and eventually got me over with them. I started with them in 2006 as their middle infielder and have been in the conference ever since.

What was the most surprising difference between Conference play and non-Conference play when you made the jump?
The speed of the game. I had to learn to make throws from a lot of different angles because of how hard guys hustle. On the offensive side I had to learn to hit to all sides of the field to keep fielders guessing. The defense is unbelievable at the top. Guys don’t stick if they can’t play defense and hit. Even the guy that slaps it around could probably hit .750 if he played down. To stay at the top you have to have all the swings. Just look at KP if you are wondering what I’m saying. When homers are gone he’s still getting hits and he’s probably the best home run hitter in our game.

Is there a player that you would compare your game to?
I wouldn’t disrespect anyone by comparing myself to them. I will say that I’ve always felt that Junior set the bar for infielders and I have always felt he made it possible for guys like me to play up. Matt Pesso is a guy that doesn’t get talked about anymore but I feel like he changed how I played the middle. He was the first to move in on hitters instead of moving back. He once told me if I trust my hands there is nothing to fear when moving in and I’ve played that way ever since. In my mind he transformed the game and taught me how to cut off angles.

What would you say is your career highlight to this point? Maybe one play or game that sticks out to you in particular?
Hitting the walk off grand slam at the A world king seat game in 2012 in a 7-4 game gave my name validity. However, playing in the War by the Shore was probably the craziest experience I’ve ever had. $100k was on the line and I never felt any pressure to do more than I could. I had no idea how many people were watching until a buddy sent me a pic of me hitting and there were 5k viewers listed. I’m very thankful to play for someone like Carl Pegnatori who has always believed in our group and given us the opportunity to shine when others wouldn’t. Playing for Team USA the last three years has also been incredible. It’s an honor to wear USA across your chest and represent all the players who love this game in our country. There’s never been a minute with Team USA that I’ve taken for granted. It’s an honor and a privilege to be apart of that team.

In your career was there a single person (player/manager/coach) who had the most significant impact on your approach to the game? Why?
In 2012 Rob Humphrey convinced me to leave my comfort zone and come play for him. I’d never played for anyone other than Wood Law and was honestly terrible for at least half the season. Thankfully for me Rob didn’t have any other options and stuck it out with me. We went on to win the A World that year and I was named the MVP and hit the walk off grand slam that sent us to the championship game. Had he cut me or not picked me up my Softball life would be very different today.

Jason Kendrick is by far the biggest influence I have had in the game. Up until 2016 I had been an MVP, won two A rings (USSSA), won a National (ASA) and still never felt like I had proved myself. Kendrick gave me what I was missing and it was a belief in myself that I belonged at the top. He has a way with people who have thick skin to convince them to better than they are and to me it’s an incredible talent. We had a great year in 2016 and I felt like he elevated my game by demanding more out of me. Even though we lost the king seat game of the Major to the eventual champ that year I felt like I finally belonged. He gave me that and I’m extremely thankful for it.

West Coast Monsta Super/A/B won three rings with Carl and he is for sure the most understanding sponsor I’ve ever played for. Gave me a lot of great experiences in this game. And truly cares about his players as people and not just as a softball commodity.

Fence Brokers – B Chris Walker was one of the best player sponsors I’ve played for. Would never play himself though. Great person, great sponsor and great friend. True Hall of Famer.

TDB AA Tim Franks – First class human who would give you the shirt off his back if you were in trouble.

Dan Smith Major – Steinbrenner of softball sponsors

Newbreed Major – Aaron and Hosh deserved better than our team gave them. First class people.

The Scene Major – Tony was amazing to me and the guys. He has offered me things I can’t talk about on social media. Extremely funny and generous.

TG Brand (greatest uniforms ever) – Justin is who I want to be when I grow up

R&M Metals A – Roger, Kenny, Helmer and Troupe AMZING PEOPLE who all did more for me than I ever deserved.

Linedrive A – Tarz cared more about his players than any sponsor I’ve ever played for. I would have never left had we not broke up after we won the A in 2014.

Wood Law A – I would have retired with Doug Wood had he not got out of it in 2011. He once had us stay at the surlogo hotel in Orlando. It’s a $20 a night hotel…haha! Doctor and a lawyer who would show up in a Bentley with a bat bag and screen hanging out the back.

Cash Plus Pawn A – Don Payne funnest most patient sponsor I’ve ever played with. He’d take all of us out whether we went 2-2 or won the tournament. Introduced me to Doug Wood.

The Wrecking Crew/Big Apple B – Joe who owns the Big Apple taught me how to close a bar and keep drinking. Still my favorite bar of all time.

What advice can you give a young player trying to break into the upper level?
Play as much as you can, always thank the sponsors (even if you don’t like them), and always play hard. Guys like Kendrick, Humphrey’s, Jose Sanchez (coached GTL for years) are always watching for the up and coming talent. They have a great eye for it and could be watching even if you don’t see them. Most importantly don’t be scared to swing for a manufacturer that might not be the most popular. I’ve swung for every manufacturer out there other than Louisville Slugger and I’ve benefited from it. When I was with Worth, Mike Cornell left and went to Demarini. In doing so he convinced me to come with him and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was apart of Demarini really diving back in the game and I got to test out all their new product every weekend we played. The relationships you make can’t be replaced.

What type of batting grip do you use and what ounce bat?
Standard 28 oz

What do you do in the offseason to prepare for the next softball season?
I mainly try and out lift Erik Kanaby when we’re in the gym together. It rarely happens.

What is your favorite sports team and your favorite sport other than softball?
LA Dodgers
Dallas Cowboys
Living in Houston the Astros and Texans are growing on me

Do you have any superstitions and if so, what are they?
Bang Energy drinks
The Unicorn
I won’t room with someone that tells me he hates Softball. If any of us hated it we wouldn’t be playing it. If an upper player tells you he hates it he’s a liar. They live for it.

What would be your "at bat" music selection?
6 foot 7 foot by Little Wayne

What is the best improvement upper level softball could make?
I love it how it is

What is your favorite non-World tournament and why?
The Snowball in Dennison, TX
Nothing compares to the atmosphere in my opinion

What is the best softball field/complex you have played at and why?
Space Coast and the complex in Kitchener, ON (atmosphere was awesome)

Where is the best place to eat on the road after a game?
Jimmys Seafood in Baltimore with my boys Mike Dill and Chris “pudge” Isennock. The food is incredible and so are the orange crush drinks.

What is the funniest thing you have ever seen on a softball field?
Watching my boy Jeff Schumann strip down to his jock strap and run around the outfield fence during the championship game in Dallas. He is 6’5 and 300 lbs. I about died watching him do it while heckling the players.

Tell us something about you that most would never know about you?
In 2009 I won Hispanic World with Rios after we were protested for having too many white people (kind of comical actually). Before our coach could start to explain things I walked up with my birth certificate which clearly shows my mom’s maiden name as Soto. Most don’t know that my mom is from Mexico and my dad is from Canada. To say the other team was upset would be an understatement.

What was your favorite sports related gift you have ever given or received?
My wife has made me some really cool shadow boxes over the years and recently had a jewelry display case made for the world rings I’ve been given over the years. Each ring is a reminder of the great sponsors I’ve been fortunate to represent over the years. I would say it’s the one piece I cherish the most.  

Old Interview

Why do you like the game of softball?
It has given me an opportunity to see a lot of our country and meet a ton of great people.  It also fuels my competitive side and allows me to compete against the best the sport has to offer.  There is nothing like playing in the conference. 
Who is the best softball player you have ever seen play?
In 2006, my first year to really play softball I can remember being in complete awww of the way RJ Howerton hit it.  He made hitting a softball a mile look effortless. I never saw him miss it.  Connell is like that now and can scare you to death when he swings.  As far as the most complete player is concerned, it has to be Andy.  He's the best at the toughest position and hits it well too. Helmer and Kelly Hartman are hands down the best hitters I've ever seen. Both can hit it anywhere they want every at bat.
What is your nickname in softball?
Way-Way and Whale
Where do you call home?
Hurst, TX
What do you do for a living?
Industrial Lumber Trader
Did you play sports in High School / College / Pro?
I played football, baseball and basketball in high school.  I played 4 years of college baseball and was fortunate enough to coach baseball at the college level for two years.  I was offered a contract with the San Angelo Colts and Ozark Mountain Ducks but decided graduate school might offer me a brighter future.
How did you get your start in softball and how did you get to the upper level?
In 2005 when I moved back to Texas from Arkansas I was asked to play I with some high school buddies on a local B team called The Wrecking Crew.  The team only lasted 4 or five tournaments before they folded.  My buddy LC Watson, who was playing with us at the time, left to play with an A team called Cash Plus Pawn.  When the year was over LC introduced me to Eric Carey and Don Payne who ran Cash Plus Pawn.  I played in a few benefit tournaments with them before they asked me to play in the conference with them in 2006.  What is funny about LC getting me my first look with an A team is that I had to pretty much beg him to leave the Regulators (a local C team) in 2009 to play with Wood Law.  He could have cared less about playing in the conference or with an A team back then. He's always been loyal to Pete and Buddy who run the local power house, The Regulators.
What position do you play?
I usually play SS, middle or 2B…depends on who we have and where the team needs me
What batting grip do you use?
My pinkie usually hangs off the end
What ounce bat, make and model do you use?
Mizuno Craze…28 and 27 oz.  Depends on the time of day and how hot it is outside
What do you do in the off-season to prepare for the next softball season?
I try to lift 4-5 times a week. My goal is to get as strong as possible before February hits.  Every year me and my wife do a 40 day fast for Lent which is right before, or during the start of the conference season.  It's a humbling experience that allows us the opportunity to strengthen our faith in the Lord. By the time we are done I am usually 20-30 lbs lighter than what I was when we started.   
What is your favorite sports team? 
Dallas Cowboys
What is your favorite sport other than softball?

Do you have any superstitions and if so, what are they?
One year in college I had a streak where I was leading the country in hitting and I was convinced it was because our CF Billy Mosley had spit some chew on my right cleat.  He did it to remind me to stay level during my swing.  I refused to polish my cleats like we were supposed to during the streak.  You can only imagine how bad they looked and smelled.  It was pretty nasty. 
What is your most memorable softball moment?
I have a lot of them that I could list. Probably the most memorable would be beating Suncoast twice at the Hall of Fame tournament in 2009.  We were a C team full of buddies that added Dennis Shrum and Jebbie King.  There were not very many players on that team that had ever played in a Major or even beat a team higher than B Class.  It was a pretty special moment that I got to spend with some great friends.
Is slow pitch softball a sport or a game?
There is way to much money that is spent at the A and Major level for it to be just a game.  Guys invest a lot of time to better themselves and to me that helps make it what it is.  I do believe at the lower levels where it is more about grilling and hanging out it is just a game though.  The different levels are what make this game so great to me.  It gives everyone a level to play.
What is the best improvement upper level softball could make?

Let me first say that I think the Conference is one of the best ideas USSSA could have come up with.  All the local players in North Texas talk about wanting to be apart of it. People forget that it cost money to have things organized like it is.  I really think that me throwing out ideas that they could do to improve the game is not giving the Utrip office enough credit for what they have done.  In my opinion sponsors like Doug Wood, Don Payne, Walker, Donny Wilson, Charles Garcia, Coop, Resmondo, Floyd…guys that have been in it for a while would be a lot better people to ask this question to. 
What is your favorite non-World tournament?
The Snowball in Dennison, TX and the Watermelon in Hope, AR hands down.  There's not many prizes you can win at the end of a tournament that can top a 40lb watermelon…haha
What is the funniest thing you have ever seen on a softball field?
Without a doubt it was in 2005 when I was playing with my Big Apple buddies.  We had finished 3rd in what felt like a 100 team NIT.  Needless to say it was a very long weekend.  My buddies were indulging in a few adult beverages when one of them decided he was going to strip down to his jock strap and run along the outfield fence during the championship game.  He is shaped like big bird with a pasty white tan so you can imagine the jaw dropping reaction he got.  It was not the prettiest sight but definitely the funniest thing I have seen at a softball field.
Thank you for sending me this interview to do DW.  While I have your ear I would also like to say a special thanks to the two best sponsors I have ever played for, Doug Wood and Don Payne.  Neither one of them have to spend their money for someone like me to play softball but they do.  For that I am very appreciative.

One response to “An interview with Steve Whaley”

  1. Sideshow says:

    If you look in the dictionary under the word “Class”… Way-Ways picture is right there. 100% about Matt Pesso, too…..good luck, kid! I enjoy watching you on the USSSA Live streams

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