The sport of softball has grown 10-fold locally.
Each year, several locals ink scholarships to extend their careers at the next level — something that was virtually non-existent 15-20 years ago.
XLR8 Softball has a lot to do with that.
Founded by Greg Eschette in 2014, the local travel softball program has helped 33 players sign and earn spots at the next level.
Eschette said building the program took a lot of effort, dedication and hard work. He said he thanks the kids in the area for wanting to better themselves, but also his wife, Linda, who allows him the time away from family to help build the program.
“There is nothing better than watching these girls get better as they go through the process with our teams,” Eschette said. “Our biggest goal is to get these players recruited and signed by college coaches — not rings or trophies. Myself, along with my coaching staff help players and parents through the recruiting process. … It’s definitely not easy to get girls into college to play. … If it was easy, everyone would do it. Only about 5 percent of all high school softball players in the United States go on to play college softball. That’s not a high percentage.”
XLR8 is a passion project for the local coach.
Greg created the travel team in 2014 when his daughter was playing as a way to keep local talent home.
At the time, Greg’s daughter was playing with an elite team based in New Orleans against some of the best talent in the country.
But in speaking to local parents with talented children, Greg determined that little existed locally to help locals foster and showcase their talent.
“Players would tell me, ‘Coach, we love the competition, but we don’t think we’re going to college more than 3-5 hours from home,’” he said. “So I started talking with my wife and daughter about the idea and at that time, there were no other 18U teams in our area, so basically, once a girl made 17, their option to play travel ball was very limited.”
Since XLR8’s inception, hundreds of players have cycled through the program, which now features three teams — U14, U16 and U18.
Greg said the No. 1 goal of the program is to help aspiring players get better, while allowing them to showcase their talents to coaches and scouts at the next level.
XLr8 competes in 6-8 weekend events during the summer and also in the fall — including some on college campuses. The team stays within 5 hours of Houma/Thibodaux when making its schedule.
“Since 2014, we have 33 girls who have signed,” the coach said. “Our four seniors this year are all signed, so that’ll bring our total up to 37 players. We have six juniors and four of them are verbally committed and the other two have offers.”
Greg said one of the biggest sources of pride in creating the program is seeing things come full circle.
XLR8 alums MacKenzie Rousseau and Kaitlyn Moore now coach a U14 team in the program — sharing in the passion for the game and helping to sustain the program into the future, allowing dozens of other locals to get a free college education while competing in their sport.
“I love seeing these players develop through the years,” Greg said. “They’re getting stronger in their hitting, pitching and throwing and now, we have former players who are wanting to come back and coach. … It’s great to see.”