County softball pioneer Bea Orr passes away
If it weren’t for the efforts of Bea Orr Logan County girls’ athletics might not have enjoyed as much success as they have over the years.
Orr, a longtime Logan County educator, Marshall University graduate and strong proponent of girls’ sports programs, passed away Sunday.
She was honored last summer during the Logan Area Chapter of the Marshall Athletic Club’s golf and luncheon event at the Logan Country Club in Chapmanville.
Orr was a true pioneer in her own right as she began girls’ softball in Logan County around the time when Title IX Federal Legislation was passed in 1972.
Title IX was the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling which established female athletics in schools, stating that discrimination against females was not allowed. The ruling also mandated equal funding for boys’ and girls’ sports. President Richard Nixon signed the legislation into law.
That same year, Orr had attended an out-of-state conference and was struck by an exhibit for the Miss Softball America program.
The next year in 1973, girls’ youth softball in Logan County was off and running and the newly formed Logan squad was off to Los Angeles to play a squad from nearby Orange County, Calif.
Orr laid down the groundwork for the success that was to come.
Beginning with the very first WVSSAC-sanctioned state high school softball tournament in 1981, Logan County’s three high school softball teams — Logan, Man and Chapmanville — would go on to win 12 state championships over the next 31 years.
Logan County’s high school programs have been greatly boosted over the years by the youth ASA or Miss Softball America area programs in the three vicinities.
Just go out on Midelburg Island on any given spring or summer evening and you will see the fruits of Orr’s labors. You will see young girls as young as age 4 or 5 picking up a bat, running the bases or learning how to throw the ball and pitch.
As a person said best at the Marshall event, “You can’t find a parking spot on the island.”
Orr, with many family members, friends and former students in the audience, spoke at last year’s Marshall event and seemed surprised with the recognition. She also kept talking in the present tense, noting that more work needs to be done in the world of girls’ athletics.
“Our girls are not going to be left out of anything as long as I am wearing this green jacket,” she said.
Orr said she was overwhelmed about getting the honor.
“Yes. Pat White talked me into it,” said Orr, stopping to shake someone’s hand. “Yes, I’m surprised. They said that I contributed as much as anyone to girls’ athletics.”
Orr said she’s always been a big Marshall supporter, too.
“I grew up in Huntington and I have always supported Marshall,” she said last summer. “But I came to Logan to teach. I had never before come to Logan in my life but they were recruiting me to come down there and teach. I came not knowing where I was coming but I came to teach.”
Orr said she saw an exhibit on girls’ softball in the early 70s and said she knew she had to bring it to Logan County.
“I was here a couple of years before I could get involved with all of that,” Orr said. “But I did get involved with the national organization, called the American Alliance for Health and Physical Education. I went to some of the national meetings and that’s where I ran across this exhibit about Miss Softball America. So I talked them into starting a pilot program in Logan.”
In only the third year girls’ softball was recognized by the WVSSAC, Man High School brought home to Logan County the first state championship in 1983.
Logan then won one in 1986.
Chapmanville followed in 1999.
Over the last 14 years, Logan County teams have won an additional nine state titles for a total of 12 overall.
“It makes be proud. It really has put us on the softball map,” Orr said of all of the success. “It makes me really really proud. I’ve enjoyed working with the girls and with girls’ athletics over the years. I’m glad that it has worked out. It’s been wonderful. All of the success wouldn’t have been possible without all of the support from the parents and the Board of Education. They have supported everything that I have tried to do.”
The zenith so far for Logan County’s three softball teams were during the 2009 and 2010 prep seasons when all three made it to the state tournament in Vienna.
In 2010, Man was playing for their third straight Class A state championship on one field at Jackson Memorial Park. In the middle field, Chapmanville was on its way to winning a second straight Class AA state title. On Field 3, Logan’s Lady Cats were in the Class AAA state championship game against St. Albans.
Three Logan County teams.
Three state championship games.
All three games at the same time.
If one person was responsible for Logan County’s softball success it was Orr.
After the Title IX legislation, Orr went to work in 1973 in bringing girls’ athletics to Logan County.
“I belong to a national organization involving recreation and we have a national meeting every year,” Orr said in a May 2009 interview with the Logan Banner. “It was back around 1972. I had to go to a major meeting in California. There were about 3,500 exhibitors. Going through the exhibit hall I saw a mannequin in a softball uniform. I grabbed all the information I could get my hands on and came home and contacted the people behind the Miss Softball USA program which had an incorporated franchise. However, it was just for Orange County California. I argued and argued with them and they finally agreed to let me bring the program here to Logan as a pilot program. One provision was that we had to wear their uniforms.”
Orr said girls’ softball took off well in Logan County and her students competed in California later that year.
“We started right then with all three divisions,” Orr said. “From tiny kids, 5-year olds, to intermediate groups and to high school groups. People were very excited with it.”
There were some struggles along the way, Orr said.
“Guys helped us coach, but some of them tried to turn it into Little League. We had a rule that every child got to play two innings. The guys came out and wanted to let the kids who were very coordinated and athletic play more, but I had to fight them on it from the beginning because in our program the rule was every girl got to play no matter if she could hit the ball or not,” she said.
Orr said the struggle was worth it and although many things may have changed, one thing hasn’t.
The young ladies involved in the sport have proven to be class acts.
“Girls must have an opportunity,” Orr said. “And our girls in the county have held their own with softball. It is truly amazing what they have done. Many years ago, I spoke to the BOE about the girls program and presented the case for girls’ sports. I requested that some of the women in the county be allowed to coach. They listed the schedule and the funds but many men lined up and got the jobs. In a lot of cases that worked out wonderfully as the men had more background in the sport than many of the women did.
“But some of our female physical education teachers were interested and some of them did become assistant coaches. We make a great showing every year and it is wonderful. Now, all of a sudden all three teams, Man, Chapmanville and Logan are peaking at the same time. My heart is on the field with the girls.”
One major change today is that the program is now ASA sanctioned, Orr noted, adding that over the years many players and coaches from the early years stayed involved and kept the sport growing.
“We got it started and we went and outgrew Miss Softball America and went with the ASA. Now the women’s sports programs are going strong,” Orr said. “We are doing well thanks to the work people involved in the program did back then. We have gone far. It was 1973 when I took them back to California to play in a big tournament. Back then Earl Queen was one of our coaches and it was quite an experience for our kids. We did not win, but we made a great showing.”
In the early years one major challenge was finding places for the girls to play.
“When I took the program into Man and Chapmanville, we played in lots near the riverbank and we had to fight to get fields,” she said. “We got a head start on everybody else in West Virginia, but the state is catching up with us now. All the struggles to get fields ready for the kids, all the challenges over the years it was worth it because things improved and got better and better. This brings back a lot of memories for me. I am so excited right now and thankful to everybody who supported the program over the years. It has survived and thrived.”
A few years ago. Anita Sedlock brought Orr a photograph of the team from 1973 that competed in California.
“It brought back so many memories,” Orr said. “It was a great bunch of gals. They are all now professional business people now. It has been quite an experience and I keep supporting girls softball and girls’ volleyball and that is starting to grow also. The girls are getting a chance and everybody is wonderful and cooperative. These little girls are putting Logan County on the map.”
West Virginia’s high school state tournament began in 1981.
In the third year in 1983, Man High School won the state title in the single-class format.
Soon after in 1986, Logan won the state title.
Chapmanville won its first state crown in 1999 as a Class AA team and have won four more since.
Man took back-to-back Class A state championships in 2008 and 2009 and went to the state title game in 2010. The Lady Billies, however, had to fight their way out of the loser’s bracket and eventually lost an 8-7 heartbreaker in eight innings to South Harrison in Man’s third game of the day.
Logan won two Class AAA state titles in a row in 2001 and 2002 and grabbed a Double-A state championship in 2006.
The Lady Cats completed play in last year’s Class AAA state tourney at Vienna where Logan went 1-2. It was the fourth straight state tourney appearance for LHS. Logan posted a 112-23 record between 2009-12.
Orr was always very serious about her work but also had a sense of humor.
She was kidded about her green leather jacket she wore last summer to the country club.
“I definitely had to wear green,” she joked just before taking to the podium for her speech.
Also on hand at last year’s Marshall event were Marshall AD Mike Hamrick, football coach Doc Holliday, basketball coach Tom Herrion and Marshall play-by-play radio announcer Steve Cotton.
Herrion also praised Orr when he spoke.
“On behalf of the faculty and staff and myself I would also like to thank you, Ms. Orr for all that you’ve done and the impact that you’ve had on young people’s lives. We respect that,” Herrion said.
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