When Riverview High softball coach Angie Slater takes the field tonight to guide her program against rival East Bay, she will have the opportunity to record her 500th career victory, a milestone made possible with hard work, determination, love and support.
In her career, Slater has won two fastpitch state titles and two fastpitch state runner-up trophies. She owns a 6-2 all-time record in the state tournament and a 20-7 record in the regional tournament.
Throughout her career, Slater, now in her 28th season, has helped produce dozens of college-bound athletes and created memories for just as many players to don a softball uniform under her tutelage.
“The passion that I see out of her is as good as it was the day she set out,” said Ron Slater’s, Angie’s husband of 32 years who has also been her assistant coach since her first practice in 1985. “With her, it hasn’t slowed down. She gives everything to it, just a love and deep passion for the game.”
In 1985, Slater’s coaching career began at Brandon High, where she was hired out of college to direct the Eagles’ slowpitch program. In her first year, the Eagles lost their first two games, but went on to win 19 consecutive to reach the slowpitch state tournament. The team lost in the final four.
Slater would lead Brandon to two more postseason appearances before applying to work as the physical education and softball coach at the soon-to-be Riverview High School, set to open in 1996.
Within her first five years at Riverview, Slater guided the program to two state championships and a state runner-up finish.
“It was special for everybody there,” said former Riverview pitcher Beth DiPietro, who went on to pitch for Auburn after delivering the two state titles and state-runner up finish. “There were a lot of firsts going on. We were a great freshman class.”
“She is, in my opinion, one of the best coaches out there,” said Adrienne Clark, a former pitcher and utility player alongside DiPietro who went on to play at Hofstra. “She’s a great teacher and person.”
Softball, interestingly, wasn’t Slater’s top sport growing up near Pensacola
Slater starred on the basketball court and was an all-state hurdler.
“I played a lot of church softball,” she said. “Poor coach, he didn’t know what to do with me. I sat as much as I played. I was an extreme diamond in the rough.”
But when a scout from a local college attended one of Slater’s church league games, Slater did enough to earn herself an athletic scholarship to play softball at Pensacola Community College in 1981. The day after she signed her scholarship, she married Ron. Two years later, Angie accepted a scholarship to play softball at South Florida.
“I personally don’t think I’m that great of a coach because I only coach one way,” she said. “I build on their God-given talent. My kids, for the most part, aren’t high school All-Americans. They’re not getting scholarships from playing on travel teams. I do better with kids who want to get better, are willing to work and who were pushed outside the box little, the blue collar kid.”
Kind of like herself.
Tonight’s game holds has interesting matchup in many ways. East Bay is coached by Glenn Rodriguez, whose daughter played under Slater at Brandon. Rodriguez and his family used to live in the same neighborhood as the Slaters.
“Coaching against her, you know she’s always fired up and ready to go,” said Rodriguez, who after 16 years is closing in on 300 wins. “You have to stay on your toes when you play her. She always finds a way to pull out a good team.”
The Sharks are 9-6 this season, but as Slater’s teams have shown in the past, it’s not over until it’s over.
DiPietro and Clark said Slater has an uncanny knack for getting the best effort from her players.
“She has a way of getting through to girls,” she said. “It’s her style of coaching. She’s stern but you’re able to understand her.”
“Every day, there was something to learn,” Clark said.