Bill Waldron casts, at times, almost an anonymous figure at Windsor softball games.
Perhaps it is the understated approach the Black Knights coach takes when providing words of instruction or encouragement to his players, or Waldron’s calm, cool demeanor evident whether in the third-base box or on the bucket he sits on outside his team’s dugout.
You see, when his team plays, it’s not the Bill Waldron Show. It’s about the girls.
“I’m not a screamer, per say,” Waldron said. “They’ve seen me raise my voice, don’t get me wrong. But usually I am looking for an opportunity to teach.
“They know I’m going to be prepared for every game, every situation, and so they know what is expected of them. I tell them, I can either be your best friend or you can look at me cross-eyed. But (the girls) know what the end result can be.”
As for those end results? Well, for nearly the entirety of Waldron’s tenure with Windsor that began in 2007, they have been rather good.
There are the three state Class B titles, the most recent of those coming last spring to go along with 2008 and 2011 championships, as well as one other state Final Four appearance under his stewardship. Two days ago, Waldron’s team completed an undefeated trek through Southern Tier Athletic Conference regular season play, leading one to believe a serious bid at another state title could be in store for the coming weeks.
It is with regard to those achievements that, on-the-field demeanor aside, Waldron’s presence looms very large over the Windsor softball program.
“He just puts 110 percent into softball, into every practice, every game,” said senior shortstop Emma Benson of the man she and her teammates affectionately call ‘BDubz.’ “He really pushes us, but he puts the girls on the team before anyone else.”
Windsor had enjoyed some softball success prior to Waldron becoming coach, most notably a state Class B title under previous coach Al Plouffe in 2004.
What was absent, however, was the consistent excellence the program has exhibited under Waldron. Quite simply, since he came on board, Windsor has established itself as one the preeminent programs in Section 4.
Talented players have helped, but Waldron also believes there are a couple of other reasons.
One of those is his involvement in the Windsor community since the late 1990s. Waldron helps with the 12-and-under program there, and makes it a point to get his varsity girls involved as well through clinics. In addition, Waldron has coached numerous 12- and 14-and-under youth travel teams, a number of them featuring prospective Windsor athletes.
“We try to get all the coaches to follow our philosophies, so at least the kids are hearing it on their way up,” Waldron said. “And I like coaching the 12- and 14-and-under teams, especially the 14-and-under. Some of them are just about varsity-level material, and yet you can still mold them and develop them.”
Secondly, there is the extensive offseason work Waldron oversees. Beginning in mid-January, Waldron — along with his junior varsity and modified coaches — runs an open gym for the softball program. From 10:30 a.m. to at least 6:30 p.m. each Sunday, and from 7-9 p.m. on Thursdays, all facets of the game are tended to.
Waldron says the Sunday open gyms routinely get about 30 players.
“I want to give the players an opportunity to take some swings and hit groundballs,” Waldron said. “When we get outside in late March, early April, we want to be able to hit the ground running. At that point, we’ve already covered a lot indoors.”
Waldron says the open gyms are optional. At least that’s the official stance.
“He expects his players to be there,” said Benson, who by her account has missed one open gym in her four years on the varsity. “But we want to be there.”
And that’s the key. As dedicated as Waldron is, without the players reciprocating on their end, there’s no way Windsor has the success it has enjoyed in recent years. Nobody wants to be the one to let Waldron, and ultimately the Windsor program, down.
“It’s about winning, he plays to win,” said senior first baseman Kylie Buchek said. “If you’re not performing, you’re not going to play. And that’s what drives you.”
“You want to play well, and he wants you to be better, he doesn’t want to see you struggle.”
One who has experienced Waldron’s love for the sport firsthand has been daughter Jenna, who with siblings Krista and Megan played for her father on travel teams. Waldron, a member of the 2004 state Class B title team under Plouffe, joined her father as a varsity assistant coach this season.
“I was kind of a stubborn player, I always felt I could figure it out by myself,” Jenna Waldron said. “(But) with my dad, I respected what he has to say, because he knows what he’s talking about.
“I don’t know anyone who puts in more hours under the table than my dad. He’ll hold individual pitching lessons, he doesn’t get paid, but he puts in the hours. And during games, he’s such a strategic coach, he’s thinking 10 pitches ahead of the pitch, or 10 plays ahead of the play.
“I love coaching for him, I see that passion he still has.”
One thing Waldron has tried to instill in his squads has been a commitment to pitching and defense. Certainly that is not a novel idea with regard to softball success, but in Waldron’s case he has tried to make it an overriding mindset as his teams approach the game, particularly in the postseason when the competition improves and the games are tighter.
“Defense wins championships, and we’re approaching the grind-it-out phase of the season, where you’re playing 3-1, 2-0 kind of games,” Waldron said. “You know you’re going to play a team with a shutdown pitcher or a great defense.”
“So, especially with young kids, you have to find a way to set their minds on what they should visualize when those kinds of games come up.”
The 55-year-old Waldron, who away from softball works as Associate Director of Outpatient Pharmacy at United Health Services, does not see himself giving up coaching anytime soon.
Waldron did allow himself his first summer away from coaching travel softball in 16 years last summer, but even other hobbies such as hunting and golf to keep him busy, it is evident that softball is seldom far from his mind.
“I can say that softball has been very good for the Waldron family,” Waldron said. “As long as I’m enjoying it and I’m healthy, I’ll keep doing it. I enjoy working with the girls.”