Softball has always played a large role in Suzi Stauffer’s life.
She met her husband, Jake, on a softball field; played the game with Jake in intramural leagues; and raised her daughters, Amy and Victoria, in the sport.
But with her daughters grown up and out of the house, Stauffer began to miss the sport. She missed the time together as a family. She missed being at the field and, most of all, the excitement of watching the game.
So earlier this year, Stauffer made a lifelong dream come true when she purchased a franchise in the National Pro Fastpitch League.
“I’ve always said that if I won the lottery I’d buy a professional team, and I would give out scholarships so girls could play softball,” Stauffer said. “I was working at Lowe’s, and I found the league’s Website on the Internet. It had a link that said ‘own your own team.’”
Although she prefers not to share exact figures, Stauffer has spent a “large amount of money” to make her dream come true. The dream is the San Antonio Armadillos.
Stauffer owns the team with several minority investors, and Jake stays on the sidelines offering a supporting role.
The team won’t bring her daughters back into the game, but it will allow Stauffer to enjoy the game close up that has played a key role in her life for more than 30 years.
Amy Stauffer was a standout pitcher at New Braunfels High School. After graduating, she went to Mercer University to play. But even as her mom’s dream in softball is taking off, Amy is stepping away from the sport — at least temporarily. Suzi said her daughter is planning to transfer to UTSA, but will not play softball this season.
Since she purchased the franchise earlier this year, life has been a whirlwind for Suzi Stauffer. She had to hire a coaching staff and prepare for the inaugural draft. Stauffer tabbed Phil Koehler, the coach of the Austin Storm, as head coach and chose others in the San Antonio area to help out.
On draft day, the Armadillos took Stacy Phillips from Michigan State with the first pick and added Kathy Morton, Lea Mishlan, Stormy Hanson and Jessica Wheeler with later picks.
The Armadillos also signed Tarrah Beyster to lead the pitching staff. Beyster was a four-time All American at Oregon State and recently traveled as a member of the National Pro Fastpitch All-Star team.
The Armadillos have signed seven players and are working on contracts with two others. The team can have 16 players.
To fill out the roster, Stauffer said the team will hold tryouts Jan. 10 at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Registration begins at noon with tryouts starting at 1 p.m.
Players in the league make between $800 and $3,000 each month. Stauffer said that the players will never make as much as men do in professional sports, but said many are grateful just to have an opportunity to keep playing after their college careers are finished.
The games are still several months away. Opening night is June 1, but the work is just beginning for Stauffer. She is working on a final agreement to guarantee a stadium for the home games, is searching for potential sponsors and is busy trying to fill out the team.
The players will get together early in May to begin practice and the Armadillos will take the field for the first time May 23 in New Braunfels when they will meet Houston in an exhibition doubleheader at 1 p.m. at Comal Park.
National Pro Fastpitch is the only professional women's fastpitch softball league in the United States. The league is headquartered in Denver, and has been in operation since 1997 under the names Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Professional Softball League (WPSL).
Stauffer said her long-term dream is to have the team turn a profit so she can turn the proceeds into scholarships for local children who wish to play softball. She plans on working closely with youth leagues and teams.
Although the amount of work is more than Stauffer expected, she said everything will be worth it because she will continue to be close to the sport she loves.
“Softball has always been a part of our lives,” she said. “We’ve been watching Amy play forever. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything — even the losses, even the tough times.”
Staff Writer Scott Mahoney contributed to this report.