The Bullard Lady Panther varsity softball team recently paid homage to several of its former members, as the team hosted the inaugural Lady Panther Alumni Recognition Event, held Thursday, April 13, at the Bullard High School softball field.
The event was held before the first pitch of the varsity team’s district contest against the Kilgore Lady Bulldogs. In front of stands filled with fans of the Lady Panther softball program, a total of nine former players were introduced and recognized for their contribution to the program’s success.
“I thought we had a decent turn out for our first year,” said Megan Dobrinski, Lady Panther softball head coach. “Several players from the first year came back, along with more recent players as well. It was great getting their prospective on how much has changed over the last 20 years.
Former Lady Panther players in attendance at the event included Ashleigh Gillard, Mandy Gillard, Kanda Greenwood, Tina Kohlhaynes, Becky McClendon, Tonya Minor, Sarah Ritch, Doni Rivers, and Baylee Taylor.
“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years,” said Kohlhanyes, a member of the first Lady Panther softball team in 1987. “I can’t believe I’m that old. These fields look nothing like the fields that we used to play on; we had grass and a backstop, and that was pretty much it. I can’t believe they actually have junior varsity and varsity teams now; we had one team, and we would run over from the track to get to softball practice.”
Minor, also a member of the inaugural Lady Panther softball team, described the program and its successes over the past 20 years as a tradition instilled in the Bullard ISD athletic program.
“It honestly feels like a tradition now,” said Minor. “This event is a great way to honor the past and show the current team the former players that help to shape the program into what it is now.”
Dobrinski said an event such as the inaugural Lady Panther Alumni Recognition Event helps to create a long lasting legacy for the program and its players.
“I am very big on legacy,” said Dobrinski. “I talk to my kids all the time about what legacy they want to leave. Everyone will be known for something and what to you want to be known for. We hashtaged “#team20” a lot this year. Team 20 is our group now. We can't stay on the coattails of team 19's success; team 20 has to build their own legacy, and the girls have really bought into that mindset.”
The event was well received by the fans of Bullard Lady Panther softball, according to Dobrinski, saying the culture surrounding the program and fans of the team is that of a family dynamic.
“The alumni recognition night was a hit with our fans,” said Dobrinski. “I honestly think we have some of the best fans ever. We still have former players and their parents that come weekly to watch and support us. Bullard softball is a family. That is the culture we are trying to create and it is evident by the amount of support we get on Tuesday and Fridays.”
Dobrinski hopes to increase the participation of the Lady Panther Alumni Recognition Event, and looks to include other events in the future.
“I would like to make this an annual thing and hopefully participation will grow,” said Dobrinski. “Maybe if we get enough participation we may even have an alumni game. Only time will tell. I hope one day everyone can come back and say I had a hand in all of this. Everyone who has come through our program has a footprint on the success here.”