Coach turns Canterbury into region contender

Jody Moore taught toughness with her own version of a tummy tuck.

Published April 29, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Jody Moore taught toughness with her own version of a tummy tuck.

The Canterbury softball coach was expecting her third child midway through the season. But nobody expected the 29-year-old to pitch live at practice while she was pregnant.

But there Moore was, belly protruding from her petite, 5-foot-2 frame, throwing curveballs at Crusaders up until days before Tesscani was born March 16.

Moore dared players to hit, then darted behind a protective screen to avoid line drives.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, please don't hit her belly, ' " sophomore catcher Macey Hall said, laughing. "But Coach Moore would probably dive for a line drive or slide headfirst, even when she's pregnant. That's the way she is."

The Crusaders 19-5 have taken on the gritty personality of their spunky, second-year coach, who has helped transform a precocious program into a region title contender.

In just its second season of district competition, Canterbury will play for a region title Tuesday at Fort Myers Southwest Florida Christian.

To get there, Moore took baby steps. Two years ago, a handful of Crusaders didn't know the proper throwing mechanics. They didn't know extended leadoff from Holiday Inn's Extended Stay.

But Moore showed patience and persistence. The former Rollins star infielder - and the school's technology director - plucked players from the hallways, convincing a volleyball star like Marissa Hamilton to give softball a shot.

The first week, Moore had eight players. Then 10. Then 14. Now the Crusaders have 15 (on both varsity and junior varsity).

Moore, who still holds school records at Rollins for runs and stolen bases, dove into coaching headfirst. She showed them how to slide, and she taught them to believe.

"She brought instant credibility, " said Mac Hall, Canterbury's head of school. "She had so much energy and enthusiasm. You could tell the first day she had a connection with the kids."

The Crusaders went 20-1 last season, winning their district and losing in the region quarterfinals.

But it wasn't until this season - when Canterbury scheduled 3A power Trinity Prep, Lake Mary Prep and 2A's Northside Christian - they felt they could play with anyone.

Their seventh-grade aces, Jennifer Crosthwaite and Emily Winesett, continue to pitch like a cagey veterans. Their steady senior, outfielder Nora Brody, keeps pounding the ball.

And their coach is still pitching at practice. Moore's much-smaller belly is safe, after all.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com or at (727) 893-8129.

Softball region finals

All games Tuesday.

Class 6A

Countryside (23-5) at Gaither (23-6), 7 p.m. The district foes meet for fourth time this season; Gaither has won two of three, including the district final on an illegal pitch.

Class 5A

Palm Harbor U. (23-4) at Chamberlain (27-2), 7 p.m. The Hurricanes' bats have come alive, averaging 12 runs the past two games; they face toughest test to date.

Class A

Canterbury (19-5) at Southwest Florida Chr. (17-6), 4 p.m. Crusaders in first region final - which seventh-grade ace will they throw?