Last May when KC officials decided to add softball to the athletic department, they did not have to look terribly far for a head coach.
Leslie Messina was head coach at Texarkana College for eight years, making quite a resumé for herself, that is until the athletic department was terminated to help budget school funding.
“It was sad to see Texarkana having to cut its athletic department,” Messina said. “But it was perfect timing for myself coming to Kilgore.”
During Messina’s tenure at Texarkana College, she was a part of five conference championships, two regional championships and two National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament appearances.
Messina’s coaching type is not one of too many emotions. In last week’s game against Northeast Texas Community College, the Rangers rallied to score four runs to take an early 4-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning. While this was happening Messina was relaxed, coaching from third base, giving the generic hand clap. When sitting down with sophomores Molly Mackey, team captain, (transfer from Angelina College) and Tricia Hock (who came with Messina from Texarkana) both described their coach as gentle.
“She can be quiet sometimes,” Hock said. “But she gets the point across when she comes up and talks to us one-on-one during a game or practice.”
Messina even described herself as not being a loud person by nature.
“By the time you’re here you know what’s expected of you and you’ll know the consequences,” Messina said. “I save the yelling and screaming for when I see a lack of effort. It’s not my first reaction and I try to stay level-headed.”
“You can tell coach has a true love for the sport,” Hock said.
This love for the game blossomed in Springfield, Ill., where Messina was born.
“I started with tee ball, then baseball until I was 12 years old and then started playing softball,” Messina said.
Eventually, she earned her way to playing catcher, first base and designated hitter at the University of Evansville in Indiana. Messina is a St. Louis Cardinals fan and tributes her love of the Cards to growing up in Springfield, Ill.
“I even named a fish of mine Ozzie Smith,” Messina said.
Ozzie Smith is member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves as shortstop for the San Diego Padres and the Cardinals. He is known for his infamous flips when running out to shortstop.
Even though Messina had most of her athletic experience in softball, she also played tennis and basketball.
“My father was a Junior Davis Cup tennis player,” she said.”My brother actually played basketball and tennis as well.”
Junior Davis Cup is an international tennis team competition for players 16 and under.
“I stuck with softball because it was the sport I was best at,” Messina said.
She no longer plays softball but enjoys coaching America’s past time.
“I enjoy coaching because it keeps me competitive,” Messina said.
KC’s inaugural softball season has not been ideal, but Messina is keeping optimistic about the legacy she wants to establish at KC.
“We have to have good players, good coaching and great support from our administration,” Messina said. “We have all those things and if we stick at it, it’ll be a matter of time until we have that reputation built at KC.”