Editor’s note: The following are excerpts taken from a 2009 Logan Banner feature story on Bea Orr, who will be honored on June 6 at the Marshall Coaches Caravan event at the Logan Country Club:
Logan County’s three high schools — Logan, Man and Chapmanville — have long been known across the state for having some of the best girls’ softball programs.
Between the three, the county schools have brought home 12 state championships in the 32 years the WVSSAC has sanctioned a high school state tournament.
That’s an average of a state championship a little less than every three years for those of you who are not good in math.
The zenith so far for Logan County’s three were during the 2009 and 2010 prep softball seasons when all three made it to the state tournament in Vienna.
In 2010, Man was playing for their third straight Class A state championship on one field at Jackson Memorial Park. In the middle field, Chapmanville was on its way to winning a second straight Class AA state title. On Field 3, Logan’s Lady Cats were in the Class AAA state championship game against St. Albans.
Three Logan County teams.
Three state championship games.
All three games at the same time.
If one person were responsible for Logan County’s softball success it is Bea Orr.
Orr got girls’ softball started in the early 1970s in the Title IX days and saw it grow over the years in the county and across the state of West Virginia.
Orr will be honored next Wednesday during the Marshall Coaches Caravan event at the Logan Country Club in Chapmanville. The luncheon is set to begin at 11:30 a.m. when Orr will be recognized.
To find the roots of Logan County’s softball mecca you have be go back to the beginning.
You have to go back to 1972 and Title IX.
Title IX was the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling which established female athletics in schools, stating that discrimination against girls was not allowed. The ruling also mandated equal funding for boys’ and girls’ sports.
That same year, Orr had attended an out-of-state conference and was struck by an exhibit for the Miss Softball America program.
“I belong to a national organization involving recreation and we have a national meeting every year,” Orr said in a May 2009 interview with the Logan Banner. “It was back around 1972. I had to go to a major meeting in California. There were about 3,500 exhibitors. Going through the exhibit hall I saw a mannequin in a softball uniform. I grabbed all the information I could get my hands on and came home and contacted the people behind the Miss Softball USA program which had an incorporated franchise. However it was just for Orange County California. I argued and argued with them and they finally agreed to let me bring the program here to Logan as a pilot program. One provision was that we had to wear their uniforms.”
Orr said girls’ softball took off well in Logan County and her students competed in California later that year.
“We started right then with all three divisions,” Orr said. “From tiny kids, 5-year olds, to intermediate groups and to high school groups. People were very excited with it.”
There were some struggles along the way, Orr said.
“Guys helped us coach, but some of them tried to turn it into Little League. We had a rule that every child got to play two innings. The guys came out and wanted to let the kids who were very coordinated and athletic play more, but I had to fight them on it from the beginning because in our program the rule was every girl got to play no matter if she could hit the ball or not,” she said.
Orr said the struggle was worth it and although many things may have changed, one thing hasn’t.
The young ladies involved in the sport have proven to be class acts.
“Girls must have an opportunity,” Orr said. “And our girls in the county have held their own with softball. It is truly amazing what they have done. Many years ago, I spoke to the BOE about the girls program and presented the case for girls’ sports. I requested that some of the women in the county be allowed to coach. They listed the schedule and the funds but many men lined up and got the jobs. In a lot of cases that worked out wonderfully as the men had more background in the sport than many of the women did.
“But some of our female physical education teachers were interested and some of them did become assistant coaches. We make a great showing every year and it is wonderful. Now, all of a sudden all three teams, Man, Chapmanville and Logan are peaking at the same time. I had to be at the GED graduation Wednesday night, but my heart was on the field with the girls.”
One major change today is that the program is now ASA sanctioned, Orr noted, adding that over the years many players and coaches from the early years stayed involved and kept the sport growing.
“We got it started and we went and outgrew Miss Softball America and went with the ASA. Now the women’s sports programs are going strong,” Orr said. “We are doing well thanks to the work people involved in the program did back then. We have gone far. It was 1973 when I took them back to California to play in a big tournament. Back then Earl Queen was one of our coaches and it was quite an experience for our kids. We did not win, but we made a great showing.”
In the early years one major challenge was finding places for the girls to play.
“When I took the program into Man and Chapmanville, we played in lots near the riverbank and we had to fight to get fields,” she said. “We got a head start on everybody else in West Virginia, but the state is catching up with us now. All the struggles to get fields ready for the kids, all the challenges over the years it was worth it because things improved and got better and better. This brings back a lot of memories for me. I am so excited right now and thankful to everybody who supported the program over the years. It has survived and thrived.”
A few years ago. Anita Sedlock brought Orr a photograph of the team from 1973 that competed in California.
“It brought back so many memories,” Orr said. “It was a great bunch of gals. They are all now professional business people now. It has been quite an experience and I keep supporting girls softball and girls’ volleyball and that is starting to grow also. The girls are getting a chance and everybody is wonderful and cooperative. These little girls are putting Logan County on the map.
One former coach from those early years remembers the thrills and challenges.
“I was coaching in the ASA program the year before Man had a team, and it was a struggle,” noted former coach Joseph “Bud” Robinette. “ASA got started when I was coaching. My daughter was in the sixth grade at the time. At Logan it was taken very seriously. It was almost on the level of a professional sport. People took losses to heart. People played to win and it was win at all cost. It was very competitive. Many kids played because their parents pushed them to and it was almost like the Hatfield-McCoy Feud. Some parents would get mad and would not speak to others and there were fights that broke out among the parents.”
West Virginia’s high school state tournament began in 1981.
In the third year in 1983, Man High School won the state title in the single-class format.
Soon after in 1986, Logan won the state title.
Chapmanville won its first state crown in 1999 as a Class AA team and have won four more since. The Lady Tigers are led by a pioneer in their own right, Ronnie Ooten, who has been Chapmanville’s head coach since the program’s beginning in 1981.
Man took back-to-back Class A state championships in 2008 and 2009 and went to the state title game in 2010. The Lady Billies, however, had to fight their way out of the loser’s bracket and eventually lost an 8-7 heartbreaker in eight innings to South Harrison in Man’s third game of the day.
Logan won two Class AAA state titles in a row in 2001 and 2002 and grabbed a Double-A state championship in 2006.
The Lady Cats just completed play in this year’s Class AAA state tourney at Vienna where Logan went 1-2. It was the fourth straight state tourney appearance for LHS.