Williamsport’s softball players all respected manager Bob Loudenslager
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth part in a six-part series looking back at the 1990 Williamsport Big League softball team which won the World Series. This summer marks the 30-year anniversary.
A lot of players on that 1990 Williamsport Big League Softball World Series championship team had Bob Loudenslager as a coach for years beforehand. He had been a staple in the area in softball for two decades, coaching not just at the Little League level, but up through high school as well.
Catcher Ellen (Kennedy) Laubach had been with Loudenslager as a coach since she was a 9-year-old softball player starting out in Little League and had him as her coach all the way up through high school.
“He taught us a lot, not just softball, but life in general,” Laubach said.
Loudenslager routinely had Williamsport playing in softball World Series and regional tournaments. He coached Old Lycoming to the Senior League Eastern Regionals in 1986 and the World Series in 1987. In 1986, the team finished as runners-up. Williamsport then lost in the Big League Eastern Regionals in both 1988 and 1989, falling in the championship games both years.
There obviously was this 1990 team which steamrolled its way to the World Series crown in Mesa, Arizona. Following that year, Loudenslauger coached Williamsport back to regionals in 1991 and won the Big League World Series again in 1994 for Williamsport’s fourth such title.
His final Little League run consisted of a remarkable span of consecutive Senior League Softball World Series appearances in Kalamazoo, Michigan, culminating with a loss in the championship game in 1996.
The players came and went over the course of that remarkable 11-year run, but Loudenslager was the anchor of the teams as coach. That success is a result of Loudenslager’s coaching style and keeping the teams disciplined and focused on the task at hand.
The players joked around at times like everyone else though. There was the time Williamsport shortstop J.J. (DeSanto) Holtzapple ran out into centerfield to catch a short ball that would have dropped. There was only one out in the bottom of that seventh inning, but Holtzapple thought it was the final out.
That’s when she jumped in the air, doing what was jokingly called the Toyota jump, an ode to the 1980s commercials that were airing at the time.
“The old video of the game, you can see Dina (White Henry) and me are just laughing and Bob says ‘get serious.,” Williamsport pitcher Jen Allison said.
He knew how to focus everyone and that’s Example 1 of many.
“I think that has a lot to do with situations and that came from him. The way we’d do it over and over and if we made a wrong play during practice, he’d ask ‘why’d you throw it there and not here?'” Allison said. “And we’d have to do the play all over again. It was definitely that style that helped us create that well-oiled machine. That was like 80% of it, and 20% of it was just the girls kept playing together. We knew each other so well and created synergies among each other.”
“He was very respectful, just an outstanding coach. He knew exactly what to do and what positions anyone needed to play,” Williamsport outfielder Dana (Washcer) Naughton said. “They always say if a coach stops yelling, they gave up on you and he never, never stopped yelling. We’re teenagers and we’re like ‘oh my God, stop yelling,’ but you look back and he was amazing. He never stopped yelling because he always believed in us. We gave him 100% all the time and he’s just an amazing man.”
Loudenslager always wanted his players to excel on the softball field and in 1990, they reached the summit of that mountain by being the best Big League World Series team in the world.
“We did what we needed to do. Honestly, it always went smoothly because he was great,” Holtzapple said. “Bob knew exactly what he was doing. So we would just go out to practice, get the job done and go have fun.”
“Bob was the best coach I ever had. I played basketball and softball all the way through college and had a lot of great coaches … but Bob was the best coach I ever had,” Williamsport third baseman Dina (White) Henry said. “He was no nonsense, he was intense, he was strict, he was competitive and he expected a lot. That’s what we needed to get where we wanted. We accepted that.”