Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Texas Travelers welcome Head Coach Lee Kuyrkendall for the 03 Travelers

The world of select softball is very small and well connected.  The Texas Travelers organization, founded by John Wardlow in 1995, has a great reputation and is known for developing great softball talent.  The Travelers organization has helped place over 175 girls in softball at the collegiate ranks.

Today, select softball has become a multimillion dollar business.  It seems everywhere you look a big organization will swallow up a small team and then break the team apart to feed a Gold Team.  This wouldn’t be a bad thing, except the fees that come with being part of a big organization start to limit the opportunity for many girls who want to play for the love of the game.  Coach Wardlow was not interested in making the Texas Travelers an organization that he would profit from.  As a matter of fact, he still allows the Texas Travelers softball teams the use of his hitting facility at no charge to the girls or the teams.

Enter Coach Kyle Bennett.  Bennett was a coach of one of the teams that were part of a large softball organization.  However, he saw an opportunity that made better sense for his daughter to play select softball at a higher level without all of the fees that are associated with the larger softball organizations.  He met with Wardlow and the two agreed on this same philosophy.  This has proved to be a great relationship as Coach Bennett’s 04 Texas Travelers are one of the top teams in the country, as well as being selected to represent the state of Texas in the 2015 ASA/USA National Championship held in Normal, Illinois.

As of August 2015, the Texas Travelers organization will welcome the Texas Travelers 03 team. This group will be led by Head Coach Lee Kuyrkendall of Rockwall, Texas.  Coach Kuyrkendall’s story is very similar to Wardlow and Bennett.  He is excited to carry on the rich history of the Texas Travelers and brings a wealth of knowledge to the team.

Currently, Kuyrkendall is an Associate Scout for the Texas Rangers, charged with the scouting of amateur players at the college and high school level. Since 1991, he has been an assistant or head baseball coach for Delta State University, Mississippi College, North Florida Community College, and Southwest Community College.  At the four-year level, he helped lead Mississippi College to three league titles in his seven seasons as head coach, and was the NCAA Regional Tournament host in 2003.  His players personally achieved individual recognition as the 2006 NCAA leader in home runs, 2004 NCAA leader in saves, 2002 NCAA leader in strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, American Southwest Conference records for most home runs in a single season – 2006, most home runs in a single game – 2000, 2002, 2006, Conference leader in every offensive category – 2006, and most saves in a single season – 2004. His recruiting efforts resulted in league Player of the Year awards – 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, and the Freshman of the Year – 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.  At the community college level, he saw 68 of his former players sign with four-year institutions. In 17 total seasons as a head coach he had 23 players drafted or signed with professional organizations. The most recent was Kade Scivicque of LSU, who was drafted this year in the fourth round by the Detroit Tigers. Scivicque finished his senior season as the All SEC catcher and was the only Tiger player named to this year’s All College World Series team in Omaha. He was also a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate catcher.

However, Coach Kuyrkendall was most proud of his teams achieving 90% graduation rates or higher and a 3.00 GPA or better.

Kuyrkendall’s personal honors include being Chairman of the MACJC Community College Coaches (2011 – 2014), NCAA West Regional Selection Committee (2006), American Southwest Conference Coach of the Year (2002 and 2003), American Baseball Coaches Association Recognition for milestone achievements of 100, 200, 300 and 400 wins, Head Coach – North Team, Central Florida Coaches Association All-Star Game (1997), North Florida Community College Professional Achievement Award (1996), and the USA Baseball Clinic Assistant – Olympic Team Summer Tour (1995 and 1996).

Now some could say that Lee Kuyrkendall only knows baseball.  However, that is far from the end of the story.  In addition to playing baseball at the collegiate level, he also played men’s fastpitch softball for several years during a time when it was a very strong sport around the country. He was fortunate to play with and against some great players such as Glenn Moore, current Head Coach of the Baylor University softball team.

“After 24 years of coaching baseball, plus my experience playing men’s fastpitch and helping my own daughter get started in the sport, I can tell you that I am right at home coaching the Texas Travelers and loving every minute of it. Fastpitch softball has grown tremendously and the outstanding Texas Travelers organization embodies everything youth sports should be.  I look forward to giving back to the girls and the softball community.  Our organization will work with the parents to develop strong, confident young women, and together we will help prepare them to play high school softball, as well as have an opportunity to play at the collegiate level” shares Coach Kuyrkendall.  “We are excited to have Lee and his family as part of the Texas Travelers organization.  In addition to his coaching experience and history of success in helping young people grow and mature, he will have valuable relationships that will be beneficial for the future of Texas Travelers players.  I can’t think of a better, more qualified individual to coach the 03 team. The girls and their families will love this guy and how he will coach them” adds Coach Kyle Bennett of the 04 Texas Travelers.

This is the second high profile coaching addition the Texas Travelers organization has added. In May, the 04 Texas Travelers added Baylor Bears legendary shortstop Jordan Strickland to their coaching staff, where she recently helped coach the girls to the 2015 Fastpitch & Firecrackers Championship, as well as a third place finish in the ASA/USA Class A National Championship Tournament.

The Texas Travelers are not interested in making money on players and their family.  They are excited about developing the girls, preparing them to play as a freshman on their high school varsity team and then having the ability to play at the collegiate level upon graduating from high school.  With their rich history and strong connections to college coaches across the country, the girls just have to work hard, show heart, keep their academics strong and continue to be coached by the best.

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