HASBROUCK HEIGHTS,NJ/OKLAHOMA CITY, OK- For every girl who plays competitive softball, going to Oklahoma City is a dream. The home of the NCAA College Softball World Series, the US Softball Hall of Fame, and of course, Hall of Fame Stadium, the home of the NCAA College World Series Championship, as well as many national and international tournaments. It is the center of the women's softball universe.
Great players can go their entire careers and never get to play on the field. So in January, when Hasbrouck Heights resident Leslie Korkgy-Valenti received a text from close friend Jaime Wohlbach if she would be interested in coaching at team, representing the Northeast in USA Softball 12U All American Games, she was taken aback.
“My first reaction, was I could not, that I did not have the time to put together a team, practice, and all that,” Korkgy-Valenti stated. “I have a family now, and a business (ALL-STARZ in Lodi), I just cannot take that much time. But when she explained to me that there was only a five day commitment, I jumped at the chance.”
The first time Korkgy-Valenti will meet her players will be Saturday, when they have a one-hour practice session inside of Hall of Fame Stadium. The players, chosen from various softball tryouts, will also be meeting her for the first time. While this is a gathering of the best 12U players in the country, teamwork is something that will not be there.
“All the teams are in the same boat,” Korkgy-Valenti said. “So I have to put in simple signs for steal, hit and run, take, and just let the players play.”
When asked if she was nervous as a coach, she said she was not.
“We all get a one-hour practice on Saturday, and our first game is Saturday night,” she stated. “It is up to the players. The team that brings it, they are going to win. There is not a lot of coaching we can do.”
Korkgy-Valenti was admittedly a bit in awe of where she was going.
“Thinking about where we are going to be, everyone who follows softball knows that field,” Korkgy-Valenti stated “It is a dream come true.
“When I was younger, UCLA was my favorite program, and now I am on the same field that they captured the national championship on a week before,” she stated.
She was also excited to be sharing the experience with Wohlbach, a friend for nearly 20 years, and one of the most influential people in softball. She is currently the head coach at East Stroudsburg University, and assistant coach for the Peru National team. She will also be coaching another one of the three teams representing the Northeast Region in the tournament.
She also player professionally, both internationally and in the United States.
They met nearly 20 years ago at a camp both were both were lecturers at Muhlenberg, where Korkgy-Valenti played. Through the years they have stayed close friends, bonded by many things, but most visibly, softball.
“She is going to be taking pictures for me during my game,” Korkgy-Valenti stated. “And I will be taking for her during her games.”
Korkgy-Valenti’s Region 1 White team will play its opening game in ASA Hall of Fame Stadium before moving into pool play. Their first opponent against Region 10 is at 8 pm, Saturday, followed by a 10:30 am game on Sunday morning.
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