Sluggers find success in Fastpitch softball

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, July 29, 2014


GARYVILLE —  In 2008, Thomas Hymel, Corey Becnel and Joey Oubre set out to establish something different for their softball-loving daughters.

Six years later, they’ve found what they were looking for. What once started out as 10 kids on a single Fastpitch softball travel team has now become an organization with over 50 kids from areas as far as Central Louisiana, Crown Point and Slidell.

“We were just trying to give our kids the best opportunity to be ready for high school softball when that time finally comes,” Becnel said. “We saw other kids venturing out to various traveling teams and recognized that we needed to examine what we were doing and if it was enough to keep up with those players,” said Becnel. 

“It has turned into a great decision for us as we see our kids now competing at a high level and they have what they need to be in a top flight high school program, and compete for a spot in the lineup.”

Oubre said that originally the organization was setup for that original team, but as others saw its progress, they wanted onboard.  

“It has been quite a journey from where we started,” Oubre said. “We had no idea of what was out there in regards to high end Fastpitch softball when we first got involved with this. We were fortunate to have some great parents in our organization from the start that were willing to do whatever it took to make it a success. Now we have kids coming from cities north of Baton Rouge  below Fisher and west of White Castle. The last I counted we had kids from 10 schools part of our group. 

“When you have 8-year-old kids driving 60 miles one way to a practice, you have to feel like you are doing something right.”

Southern Sluggers are comprised of five teams ages 10 through 16. They practice their teams at the old GYO baseball fields in Garyville. 

The Sluggers host tryouts each year, finding 11 players to suit up for each team. 

“We are looking for the kid who wants to separate themselves from their peers and who are dedicated to the game of softball,” Hymel said. “What we do is not easy but we stress to our kids is that if you have the desire and willingness to sacrifice, we can show how to get ahead of your competition. When you show up to make that high school team, you will be way ahead of the others.”

Southern Sluggers coaching staff for their teams are both extensive and impressive. Terry Wixsell came aboard a year ago and coaches the 11-U and 12-U, teams having over 20 years of travel softball experience. Katie Guillory is a former LSU player and coaches the 14u and 16-U clubs along with Ashlyn Grisaffeas  pitching coach and Brad Blanchard from Ascension Catholic High School. Taylor Terrio, who was the Southland Conference freshman of the year in 2014 for Nicholls State University, handles the outfield group, and Stacy Sutton, formerly of LSU Eunice, also works with the pitching staff and 14U team. 

The teams play almost year round.  Their season concluded with their 12U group representing the organization in Panama City, Fla. for the USFA World Series and the 16U and 14U were competing at the Deep South College Exposure event in Live Oak earlier this month.   

When asked what is the key to being able to be a part of the Southern Sluggers, Hymel is quick to answer. 

“The parents,” he said. “We see so many kids who have the talent but mom or dad won’t move out of the way and allow the coaches to coach and allow the kid to fail and learn from their mistakes. I will take a less talented kid any day with great parents who understand what it takes before a super-talented child with parents who think they have all the answers.”

Southern Sluggers will host tryouts for its 2014-2015 teams on Aug. 9 and 10 at its fields in Garyville. For more information, call 225-206-1517 or 504-201-2415.