Hot dry summer nights at the ballfield may feel like a far-off daydream washed in steady winter rain, but the crew at Tualatin Youth Softball is already deep into prepping for the upcoming season.
Registration is open, skills clinics are in full swing, and the organization’s leadership has stepped to the plate with a big tip of the hat to predecessors Howard and Ali Hoyle, the husband-and-wife duo that many credit with building the program into a training ground where girls can gain the fundamentals to become formidable competitors without breaking the bank.
“We had the same two people running this league for 12 years and if not for them we wouldn’t have a club,” said club President Shannon Lovelace. She and other fellow TYS parents came forward in a show of appreciation to shower the Hoyles with gratitude for their work.
Under the Hoyles’ direction, Howard ever-present on the field and Ali working tirelessly behind the scenes, the league developed an enduring mission to provide a level of training and coaching that ensures players who lack the time or money to play for expensive club teams still get the mentoring they need to play high school ball.
About 200 kids ages 4-12 played in multiple divisions under the TYS banner last summer.
This offseason, Lovelace and her 12-member board expanded the club’s weekly hitting, pitching, and fielding clinics to build on Howard Hoyle’s beloved annual Spring mudfest sliding clinics and his inclusive philosophy.
“I think the key to being a successful program is having people that look beyond just their own kid,” Howard Hoyle said. “I’m excited because we have a group of people coming in that have a lot of energy. They’re really trying to build a program as opposed to (building) their own kid.”
That vision has paid off for Tualatin High School softball in exactly the way Hoyle had hoped. The Timberwolves took home state titles in 2015 and 2018, and finished second in 2019.
The Hoyles’ relationship with TYS dates back nearly two decades when Howard began helping coach their oldest daughter’s team. All four of the Hoyle girls spent summers in the league. The youngest, now 16, plays for Lakeridge High School, where Howard has continued his coaching career.
During his and Ali’s little league tenure, the pair were a foundational presence. He assumed field maintenance duties and board roles along with coaching while Ali handled the many often unseen administrative tasks like player registration and uniform distribution that keep a league running smoothly.
“If there was something happening in Tualatin that was softball related, it was the two of them that were behind it,” said parent Jenny Bieberdorf, whose daughter played for Howard and whose husband coached with him. “No matter who came and went from the Board, no matter who was involved, they were just a constant.”
But Howard deflects the praise, instead spreading it to his mentors and to the innumerable parents who pitched in to make the league and his teams successful.
“There were a lot of good people before me. When I started coaching softball there were people I looked up to as role models and I peppered them with questions,” he said. “I think what really sucked me into softball was how generally good people are.”
Though he took a team all the way to the Little League World Series back when it was held at nearby Alpenrose Dairy in Portland, it’s not the wins and losses that he remembers, but the individual player victories on the field.
It’s the firsts that stuck with him.
“The first time they steal home, slide into home. The first time they catch a fly ball. It’s their first strikeout as a pitcher,” he said. “That to me I remember more vividly than any wins or loses.”
With a new season on the horizon, Howard has a word of advice for would-be volunteers who question their own abilities and value: Don’t’ worry about what you don’t know. Just get out there.
The success of a team or the league is built on relationships and dependent on parent participation. Extra hands at practice allow coaches to run multiple, small group skills stations and keep the kids rotating through while they have the freedom to roam the field helping players one-on-one.
“Every super positive experience I’ve had with a team came down to parent involvement,” he said. “I just want to encourage parents to get involved. You don’t have to know everything, just be there.”
Spring player registration is now open. For registration, information, and the full calendar of off-season skills clinics visit tualatinsoftball.com.