Former players remember the best time of their lives playing for Judy Hoyt on the Parker City All-Stars
They were Parker City’s girls of summer, looking spiffy and proud in their purple and gold-clad uniforms. And when they entered the gates of Hall Field, they became the big event, attracting fans young and old, men and women, boys and girls, who just came to watch them play some of the best softball one could ever witness.
The reason – and everybody knew it – was because of their coach Judy Hoyt.
While the moments of fleeting glory were the best times of their lives, little could they realize the lasting impact that their coach would have on the rest of their lives.
Judy Hoyt’s passing on March 16, 2021, turned back the clock for many of her former players, who could not help but pause and remember how her guidance shaped their futures.
“She helped me make it through one of the most difficult parts of my life,” recalled Lori Reed, one of the many former Parker City All-Stars who reflected in admiration about the impact that Judy had on generations of girls who discovered purpose and comfort from a no-nonsense coach that demanded excellence, instilled discipline and inspired confidence – attributes that have helped carry them throughout their lifetimes.
“I pitched for the All-Stars for four years and I loved it,” offered Lisa Smithson. “Judy was the best coach around and a friend to us all. Some of my best childhood memories were playing for the All-Stars. You felt privileged and special to be on the Parker City All-Stars. Judy impacted my life in so many ways. She was an amazing lady.”
“Judy made me believe in myself as an awkward 13-year-old,” said Kari (Goodman) Musick. “I never really thought of myself as being that good, but she believed in me and turned me into a pretty good third baseman.”
“I’ll never forget the day Judy asked me to join the All-Star team. What a blessing she has been in my life. So many good memories on the ball field and at the lakes. I’m gonna miss my friend and coach who taught me so much,” said Susan (Thornburg) Wolfe.
Valerie (Jones) Buchanan (1970-73) played on one of Judy’s first All-Star teams. “She always taught us to work hard to improve our skills, play as a team and have fun. “We were so proud when she selected our cool purple and gold uniforms. We were the envy of the county and we not only looked spectacular, but we played with a high level of skill and enthusiasm. All of our accomplishments were the result of Judy’s coaching skills.
“Judy was just a classy lady with a sincere commitment to giving the girls of Parker City an opportunity to became their best.”
Hoyt never minced words – was tough when she needed to be, compassionate and understanding when the occasion called for it, but always demanding.
“She let you know when you crossed the line,” said Alana Homan. “One time when I was the starting pitcher and I was late to the game, she made me sit the bench and watch us get behind for several innings before she felt like I learned my lesson. She was smiling when she told me if I was ever late again I wouldn’t play the whole game.”
“Being a Parker All-Star was such a privilege,” said Sherry (Hale) Clevenger. “You knew if you joined Judy’s team what was in store for you – a lot of hard work. If you weren’t pulling your weight, that was a different story – let’s just say I ran a few (extra) laps.”
“She loved all of us and was willing to help us both on and off the field. She always had our back.”
Tammy Starbuck remembers one particular incident that reminded her of Judy’s toughness.
“She had a terrific way of connecting with each player and helping them develop and shine. We never doubted she was in it for us. Her love for us and the game was undeniable.
“I remember one afternoon she pitched me low and outside, which was my favorite. I smacked a line drive and hit her right in the thigh. I was beside myself. But she assured me she was fine and told me that I hit the ball a ton. But that was Judy. She made painful sacrifices to help us grow and develop into our best.”
Vickie Van Pelt said “Judy got to know each one of us as individuals and got to know what motivated each of us. She gave me confidence both on and off the field and I will be forever grateful.”
“She didn’t settle for less than our best,” said Colleen (Manning) Fields. “She knew we could take it because she knew our potential.”
Mary Traub was considered one of the best athletes of the day, and softball was no exception. She would move on from the Parker All-Stars to play for a national team, but credited Judy with developing her talent.
“Practices with Judy were tough, but fun. She expected the best from us as soon as we stepped on the field. She didn’t scream and yell, but she would teach and encourage. When she got mad, it was a ‘quiet’ mad and (also) unnerving because she would hit the balls harder at us.
“We never doubted her and never wanted to disappoint her. That is respect, pure and simple. But, she respected us too. We would have done anything for Judy.”
Lori Reed explained that Judy Hoyt was one of the people who helped her cope with the tragedy of her mother’s death with she was a 10-year-old.
“It’s like she knew I needed softball to get me through. There were no tryouts; Judy hand-picked her teams. Often times she came up to the girls in the middle of the season at the ball diamond and pulled them from the bleachers or dugout to inform them they had made the team.”
Judy’s impact carried over from the softball diamond. Each year she took her team up to Tippecanoe Lake for the weekend where she had a cottage and a speedboat. The girls would ski, swim and play games.
“Diana (Wright) Howell, the assistant coach, would tell scary stories at night that would make you scared to go to bed,” Reed recalled. There were a lot of pranks played on both players and coaches. I can remember one time Judy put spaghetti in all the girls’ sleeping bags. Another time when we were skinny dipping she picked up all of our bathing suits and took off with them.
Of all of her players over the years, there were two who knew Judy as more than a coach, but also as a mother and grandmother.
“When she asked me to join the team, she told me ‘I will be harder on you. There will not be any favoritism,’ “ remembers Lori (Hensley) Crabtree.
Crabtree joined the team and was developed into a pitcher and first baseman. She had to earn her playing time.
“It was such an honor to be on the team and there were so many good players over the years. Mom really saved a lot of girls. A lot of them were kind of lost, but she gave them purpose and confidence to be their best.” Later and much more recently, Judy coached her granddaughter Alex.
“My Gram taught me so much in life, how to ride my bike, how to tie my shoes, how to throw a softball, how to play poker. We went on so many adventures. She made me feel like I was the star of the show every single second.”
All the way until the end, Judy Hoyt gave of herself. For those wondering why there were no services for Judy, it was because she donated her body to Indiana University so that someone else may benefit, even in death.
Many of us lose family members, or friends, or special people in our lives every day. They all in some way have given us unique gifts that mold us into the people we are.
Clearly from all the many testimonies from the girls she coached, Judy Hoyt left many gifts.
Its fair to say, as a softball coach, she was in a league of her own.