Forging a legacy

Posted Monday, May. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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With Lake Ridge now open, Legacy is no longer the new kid on the block. Still, the school is relatively young, having opened in 2008. In this, its sixth year, the Broncos baseball and softball programs are arguably in the process of moving from upstarts to established programs with a tradition of success.

The softball team has matched its deepest run in the postseason, reaching the regional finals as it did in 2010. With a victory in its series against Lovejoy this week, Legacy would advance to its first state tournament and become the first Mansfield ISD team to do so.

The Broncos baseball team swept Waxahachie last week, advancing the boys to the 4A Region II semifinals for the first time. They face off against Frisco Liberty this week.

“Mansfield is such a great softball community,” Legacy head coach Michelle Mayfield said. “We have great select programs in the area that help support the high school programs, and our parents are very knowledgeable and supportive. We have kids playing from very young ages and they grow up wanting to be involved in the high school programs. I’m just proud that Legacy is one of the schools that has really been able to build a successful program, and we hope the young ones out there are looking forward to being a Legacy Bronco.”

“I had been at some places where there had been some success and I shared some of things that successful programs do, based on my observations and the places I had been,” baseball coach David Walden said. “I just asked [parents and players] if they wanted to do those sorts of things, and it was overwhelmingly accepted. It’s meant a lot of time and sacrifice from a lot of different people so that these kids have a really good experience playing baseball at Legacy.”

Mayfield was able to put her mark on the softball program from its inception. She started the program at the school and is the only coach it has known.

“It was a very tough first year, purely from the standpoint of getting kids from all the other schools coming in and not really having an identity,” Mayfield said. “They had all come from other high schools, so their identity was that they were a Summit Jaguar or a Mansfield Tiger or from Timberview. There was no Legacy identity that first year. It was a patchwork of kids from other schools with no real loyalty to Legacy. Probably the toughest part was putting all those personalities together, not knowing their background or experience or what kind of athletes or people they were.”

And though there was no storybook postseason run that year, the team did lay some groundwork from which to build. For example, they were the only team to defeat district champions Weatherford that season.

“We had some success that year and we have built on that success since then every year,” she added.

Starting a program was a clear challenge for Mayfield, but she simply applied the principles that she had used every coaching stop previously.

“It’s what I’ve coached everywhere I’ve been,” she said. “It’s teamwork number one; discipline, hard work, and it’s not just about winning. Winning is not always the priority. My goal is about building good athletes, good young ladies that will be successful, not only at softball but in life after they leave high school. It’s about building character; good solid people. If they want to go play college ball, they’re going to be prepared for it. If not, they’ll be prepared for whatever it is they move on to at the next level.”

Mayfield’s approach started to pay real dividends in 2010.

“We tasted some success that first year, but I think 2010 was the first year that things really started coming together,” she said. “I began to get a feel for my kids and the parents’ expectations, and they got a feel for my expectations as well. We went to the regional finals and although I knew we had a good group at the beginning of the year, I don’t think anyone expected that success out of ‘nobodies’ at that time, just our third year of the program. We were toddlers playing on the big playground, so I think 2010 was really the spark for the program and fortunately we’ve been able to keep that success going. Hopefully this year we can take it that much further and get all the way to state.”

That same year was Walden’s first as the baseball coach. He inherited a program that hadn’t qualified for the playoffs in its first two seasons.

“The first thing I did was get with the team and their families and tried to get a feel for what kind of baseball program they wanted,” he said. “I wanted to get everyone headed in the same direction. I wanted the parents to know how important they were in the development of that program.”

In his first year at the helm, the Broncos made the postseason.

“We were very fortunate that we had some really good players in place,” he noted. “They were hungry to make the playoffs, and one thing followed another and they started having a lot of success.”

If 2010 was the watershed season for Legacy’s softball and baseball programs, 2013 might be the marquis moment – perhaps surprisingly.

“After losing eight seniors last year and losing the talent that we had, a lot of people on the outside thought this team would not be very good this year,” Mayfield said of the softball squad. “I really think that has proven to be motivation for this senior group.

“We lost a lot of talent but I knew from the beginning that we had a lot of experience coming back and a good little freshman group coming in that obviously made a big impact,” she added. “But I firmly believe 100 percent that it’s been the teamwork factor that has made this team so successful. This group of seniors has been incredibly special and I just told them the other day that this is the best example of a team that I’ve ever coached or played with. I think that has been the key to being as successful as we have been.”

Unlike Mayfield, Walden wasn’t so certain of his team before this season started.

“We were real unsure about how much success we would have because we graduated a really strong senior class last year,” he said. “We really hadn’t played any of the teams that were in our new district, so we really didn’t know what kind of ball club we were going to have. We knew there was some talent, but we didn’t know where the leadership was going to come from or how they would play under pressure. There were a lot of unknowns.”

And it didn’t look good early on in the campaign.

“It took forever for us to get to .500 because we’d lost so many games early,” Walden recounted. “That’s another thing I’m proud of, is that they just kept plugging along and staying with what we were trying to do and it paid off for them. They could have all jumped ship, but they didn’t. They stayed right there and I think they believed in what we were doing and believed in themselves and their teammates.”

With both teams riding momentum into the next round, it remains to be seen which team can progress further in the playoffs. And while either squad would probably love to have bragging rights, at the end of the day, they’re all Broncos.

“I think there’s some camaraderie there; I think also some rivalry,” Mayfield said. “In the end, we all want Legacy to be successful, no matter if it’s baseball or softball or whatever. I know we’re pulling for them and I hope they’re pulling for us.”

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