The program, with teams in several age groups, has won several state and national championships.
By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 3, 2001
TAMPA -- Two decades ago, only Little League slow-pitch softball was available for Tampa Bay area players.
Then in 1981, Ray Seymour started a year-round team for girls 14 to 15 years old, naming the program the Tampa Mustangs.
His daughter, Sherrie, stayed with slow pitch. She no longer plays softball, but Seymour is still active in the sport and has developed a program that feeds players into many of the county high schools.
This season, the Tampa Mustangs program has 12 teams, including a newly formed under-8 team.
To better showcase his players as college prospects, Seymour converted his entire program to fast-pitch in 1994, and in 20 years, 170 Mustangs have earned scholarships.
A team in each age group -- from under-10 to under-18 -- has won a national championship. In all, the program has won 12 national championships, five national runner-up trophies and 10 state championships.
Money to operate the large program must be raised by the players and their parents. They wash cars, clean yards and solicit donations to meet the operating budget for the 12 teams, which exceeds $100,000 annually.
One of the most successful teams of the program is the under-16 squad.
Seymour has been coaching the team since the players were 10. Through the years, the team has won six national championships.
With the team since the beginning are Amanda Cody, Krista Jessup and Missy Zick of Chamberlain, Kaycie Maines and Beth DiPietro of Riverview and Natalie Ippolito, Darlene Hollister and Laura Templeton of Sickles. All were impact players from the first practice of their high school freshman seasons.
The Mustangs are called a travel-ball program for good reason. They have played as close as the University of South Florida and as far away as California.
Before the summer is over, all of the older teams will play in at least one college scout tournament.
The Mustangs will host one of those tournaments in late July with more than 100 teams and 200 college scouts expected to attend.
In addition, the under-16 team has been invited to the prestigious Louisville Slugger Independence Day Invitational Tournament in Boulder, Colo., where more than 400 college scouts normally attend.
"Who would have ever thought this program would have grown so large? And who can believe it has been 20 years?" said Seymour, also the coach at Hillsborough Community College.
"There have been both good and bad times, but something all of us in the program are proud of are the 170 girls who earned college scholarships."