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Artesia Punishers program continues to build, adds two teams from Nevada

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

The world of travel softball is a constant, growing industry year after year with not only new teams forming, but more teams within an existing program being added. The Artesia Punishers are no strangers to this as president Bob Medina continues to expand a program that has been around for over two decades.
As the summer season is already in full swing, the Punishers program finds itself with 14 teams, four of which are based out of the Inland Empire and, for the first time ever, two are from Henderson, Nevada. A decade ago, it would be unheard of to see a team, or teams part of a program that is out of state. But again, it just goes to show how rapidly this sport is growing.
“The Punishers program, I’m very happy with it,” Medina said. “Putting all these teams together has taken up a lot of my time. So, I haven’t been able to help the coaches 100 percent or focus on my team 100 percent. I’ve been really focusing on everybody else’s team getting in order, making sure they’re on track, giving them some of my knowledge that I have.”
Medina, who is also the coach of the 18 Gold team, the highest-level team in the organization, decided to branch out to Nevada because of strong interest from the personnel currently involved with the 14-Under and 16-Under teams, both coached by Brent Johnson. Over the past year or two, Medina has been to Nevada twice and Johnson has been down here twice and Medina already knows most, if not, all the players from the two Nevada teams.
Medina did add that he doesn’t need another team in the Punishers organization, but needs a good quality coach, someone with the passion and heart that the current coaches already have that’s going to focus on the scholarships regardless. Medina, who has different types of softball championships under his belt from several years ago, visits every single team in the organization and is hands on while trying to know everyone’s name at the same time.
“I do want the Punishers organization to be a family; a family atmosphere,” Medina said. “We’ll do everything we can for them and I want to make sure the coaches stay with our vision and our thoughts on how we want the organization to run.”
How successful is the program this season? Every team except for Medina’s, has already qualified for, or will participate in some type of end of the summer national championship tournament. The 10-Under team, coached by Matt Haynes, has already qualified for the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships. The 16-Under team, coached by Vince Gonzales, and 18-Under team, coached by Armando Canizales, will be in the Triple Crown Sports World Series next month in San Diego.
Haynes and Canizales, who also coaches the 12-Under team, have also qualified for the Triple Crown Sports World Series in the Reno, Sparks, Carson City region along with Gabe Roman, coach of the 12-Under team.
The other teams in the program, all of whom have qualified for the American Fastpitch Association (AFA) Nationals in Fontana, to be played July 24-30, are: 10-Under (Henry Garcia), 10-Under (Andy Macias), 12-Under (Canizales), 14-Under (Robert Guerra), 14-Under (Mike Leyvas), 14-Under (Isaac Sanchez), 18-Under (Dave Lindsay). The teams from the Inland Empire are the ones coached by Haynes, Leyvas, Lindsay and Roman.
“Most of these teams have only been with us within the calendar year,” Medina said. “Within the calendar year, putting a new team together, some of them only have 10 or 12 players, picking up one and losing one…I’m very proud of their performance and where they’re going with this. Not only that, some of kids have already gotten scholarships offers and some of them have gotten scholarships.”
This weekend, Leyvas, Lindsay, Medina and Roman will take their teams to the PGF Southern California Qualifier, hoping to pick up one of 22 automatic berths up for grabs.