How can the Osan Mustangs maintain their winning tradition when they change players as often as some folks change socks?
The men won the Korea Traveling League regular-season championship for the fourth time in the past five seasons; the women, for the third straight year. Each earned top seed into this weekend’s Koreawide post-level tournament at Yongsan Garrison.
Their successes come despite constant changes of players, thanks to Osan Air Base’s one-year tour. Even the women’s head coaching post changed hands this season: Bree Morgan-Jones transferred to Italy in June; now, Natasha Theriault both plays and coaches the squad.
The coaches cited expectation and perspiration as perhaps two keys to Osan’s success.
Men’s coach Sammy Kurk credited past coach Robert Waddle with developing “one of the most successful Air Force softball programs in the world,” which made great military softball players gravitate to Osan.
Waddle’s successors “have tried every year to mirror the program he started and build on it,” Kurk said. Ballplayers who make the Osan team, he said, know “they have have a responsibility to uphold the proud tradition of the past. And each year the Osan teams try to extend that yardstick just a little.”
While Waddle coached Osan on and off from 1992 to 2004, the team won seven league regular-season titles and four Koreawide post-level tournament titles.
He said the one-year tour environment actually helps team chemistry because of it engenders brotherhood. “I cut players who probably had more talent but I kept the ones I kept because of their attitude and team chemistry,” Waddle said.
“That was a key ingredient for me. They would go to the club together. They would go to the movies together. They bond better. … You see that much more at Osan ... than you do on Army bases.”
Similarly, said Theriault, the female players “are a close team. We consider each person to be family.”
“Osan is known for softball,” she said. “The men’s team is constantly No. 1 and I believe their success drains off onto the women’s team. The foundation is set in stone and each player knows the expection during their time here."
All-Air Force talents Kischa Scott-McCloud (.641 average, 17 homers, 59 RBIs) and LaTonya Mathis (.517, 8, 36) helped the Mustangs women go 16-4 in league play and 21-8 overall. Supporting them were Theriault (.557, 10, 51), Jacqueline Wheeler (.429, 20 RBIs) and Celsa Salazar (.479, 29 RBIs).
Whether those successes will carry into the tournament at Yongsan remains to be seen. The women face a bit of a handicap: Scott-McCloud and Mathis have left for the All-Air Force women's tryout camp in Utah.
“Our approach is going to be the same as any other game,” Theriault said. “The team with the most heart is going to win.”
Said Kurk: “We basically treat every weekend, every team, every tournament the same.
“We go in knowing that we can only lose if we beat ourselves."
The tournament is to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Yongsan’s Lombardo Field FourPlex. The women’s championship is to begin at 9:30 a.m. and the men’s at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Koreawide Post-Level Softball TournamentAt Lombardo Field FourPlex, South Post, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea
Game 1-Area IV vs. Camp Casey, 10 a.m.
Game 2-Yongsan Garrison vs. Kunsan Air Base, 10 a.m.
Game 3-Osan Air Base vs. Game 1 winner, 11:30 a.m.
Game 4-Camp Humphreys vs. Game 2 winner, 11:30 a.m.
Game 5-Game 2 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 6-Game 1 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 7-Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 8-Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 9-Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 winner, 4 p.m.
Game 10-Game 7 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 10 a.m.
Game 11-Game 7 winner vs. Game 9 winner, if Game 7 winner loses Game 10, 11:30 a.m.
Game 1-Osan Air Base vs. Camp Humphreys, 10 a.m.
Game 2-Yongsan Garrison vs. Camp Casey, 11:30 a.m.
Game 3-Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 4-Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5-Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 4 p.m.
Game 6-Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 9:30 a.m.
Game 7-Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, if Game 3 winner loses Game 6, 11 a.m.