Harry Fodder: 0 to 1,000 … and it started with a video

GAINESVILLE, Fla. Tim Walton‘s professional baseball career ended in 1997 after two seasons, but the University of Oklahoma, the school where he pitched, won a College World Series and graduated with a degree in history, tossed him a professional lifeline. 

It came from the softball field. 

Patty Gasso was heading into her fifth season at OU — and was still two seasons from the first of her five NCAA titles — when she hired Walton as an assistant coach. Walton, then 26, had never coached softball; had never coached women. One of the first things Gasso did was give him an instructional video made by Mike Candrea, who was well on his way to becoming the greatest coach in softball history, what with his eight Women’s College World Series championships at Arizona, plus a gold medal in the 2004 Olympic Games when he retired last year. 


Mike Candrea

So Walton popped in the tape (yes, a VHS) and watched Candrea provide some pointers on slapping, hitting, pitching, etc. After the video ended, Walton noticed Candrea’s telephone number at UA was listed on the box. He commenced dialing. 

Candrea actually answered the phone and the two talked for 45 minutes. One bit of advice Candrea provided struck Walton more than any other. 

“Don’t do anything different regarding skill development. Train them the same as you would the boys,” Walton recalled Tuesday. “[But] the secret sauce is totally different.” 

By that, he meant the relationship part of it. In ’99, though, that was Gasso’s job. It eventually became one of Walton’s duties when Wichita State hired him as head coach in 2002. He was there three years and won 123 games before Florida came calling in 2005. That was 877 more wins ago. 

On Sunday, that 123 met 877 and put Walton in some very elite company. In defeating 19th-ranked LSU 2-1 on the road in extra innings, Walton not only became the 45th coach in NCAA softball history to reach 1,000 career victories, but also became the second-fastest to hit the four-digit milestone by doing it in just 20 seasons.  

Second only to Candrea.

Must’ve been a helluva video. 


[Let the record show that over the past five months, Walton and volleyball coach Mary Wise have won their 1,000th career games, men’s tennis coach Bryan Shelton won his 400th career match, baseball’s Kevin O’Sullivan won his 600th game, while track and field’s Mike Holloway won his 12th national championship, and men’s swimming’s Anthony Nesty, gymnastic’s Jenny Rowland and lacrosse’s Amanda O’Leary all won league titles. Yeah, ‘Team Florida’ has some coaches.] 

Walton’s squad, ranked 10th, is done with their Southeastern Conference regular-season schedule, but the Gators (38-13) have Wednesday night’s date at No. 3 Florida State (45-5), which is 29-0 in non-league games this season. On Friday and Saturday, they’ll play a home couple double-headers against Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast that the team (and UF operations folks) will use as tune-ups for next week’s SEC Tournament at Seashole Stadium, the first time the Gators have hosted the event since 2005. 

Mercer, by the way, is in its first season under Lindsay Fico, a standout utility player for four seasons at Florida (2003-06), in Walton’s first year at UF. Consider that crossing of paths another byproduct of his coaching longevity. 

That and his remarkable success, of course. 


Who knows where Walton’s win tally will stand come Saturday night? Or at the end of this month? Or come next month, when the players and coaches hope their season ends in Oklahoma City? 

The fact that it all started with a video and a helpful conversation from an icon is pretty cool, though.  

“He was just being honest with me. There are so many differences in baseball and softball, but the technical side of things is not different. They’re the same,” Walton said, noting that Candrea was a baseball-to-softball convert, as well, meaning he eventually had to learn to navigate the delicate relationship part. “When you win this many games, and do it over this period of time, it shows how much trust and faith and confidence, and how much we’ve done this together.” 

Walton needed only to go back two days — Sunday’s road win at Baton Rouge — to come up with a perfect example. The Gators and Tigers were tied at 1-1 with one out in the top of the ninth when senior Cheyenne Lindsey stepped to the plate. The left-handed Lindsey was 0-for-4 with four swinging strikeouts to that point. 

“We probably wanted to bat her right-handed in her fifth at-bat. Do something different,” Walton joked. “But we were completely coaching her, talking to her, and the conversations were very simple. ‘Listen, your swing is fine. … It’s not a strike. … You’re making adjustments you don’t need to make. … Just be a little higher on your swing. … You got to trust it.’ “

Lindsey slashed a solo home run to right and the Gators clinched a much-needed series at a difficult place to win. 

“Three years ago, she’d have struck out for a fifth time — or I would’ve pinch-hit for her,” Walton said. “So fitting for this team to have that moment and reach 1,000.”

A vintage “secret sauce” moment, to be sure. 

Now bring on 1,001 (and many, many more). 

This news is republished from another source. You can check the original article here

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