FORT MYERS — When the final out was recorded in the state Junior League softball championship game, the eyes of Bo Longshore immediately shifted toward the sky. No doubt, there was a proud coach and father smiling right back at him.
Following in the coaching footsteps of his father, Bill, who was a giant in the Naples youth softball scene for many years before he passed away in 1995, Bo Longshore guided the Palma Ceia/Tampa Bay girls to the Junior League state title on Monday. It was Longshore's first state championship as a manager and he knew exactly who he wanted to share it with.
"The first thing I did was point to the sky," said an emotional Longshore, whose father won state titles as manager of the Naples Braves.
"I think he wanted this more than anything, to get where his dad was," said Bo's mother, Joan.
The Tampa Bay squad (ages 13-14) will compete in the Southeastern Regional starting today at Sam Fleishman Regional Sports Complex in Fort Myers.
Longshore, who serves as Director of Softball for Tampa Bay Little League, has continued his father's coaching legacy at the youth level for the past eight years. He's enjoyed every moment.
"I fell in love with coaching," he said.
Longshore said it's especially rewarding to see the benefits that the young teenagers receive from the sport.
"The girls really get a lot of self-confidence from it. When they face a 50-mph pitch from 40 feet away, they get confidence in what they can do," he said.
Tampa Bay will enter the regionals with plenty of confidence, thanks to winning all five of its games at the state tournament while outscoring opponents 54-17.
Today's game between Tampa Bay and the North Carolina state champion at 12:45 p.m. figures to be a family reunion with several Longshores and relatives — which include a few coaches — expected to be in attendance. Joan Longshore said nothing will stop her from making the trip to Fort Myers.
"If you see an elderly woman on the side of I-75 North with Gatorade on her shoulder, you can stop and give me a ride," she joked.
Not only will generations of Longshores be represented in the dugout and in the stands, but also on the field. Bo's daughter, Olivia, is Tampa Bay's second baseman. Bo has managed previous all-star teams, but this is the first time he's been able to fill out his daughter's name on a lineup card in the postseason.
"She had always been good, but just not good enough for all-stars," Longshore said.
Everything changed after Olivia watched her father's team lose in the state tournament last year. She became determined to earn a spot on the all-star squad this year.
"On the drive home, she told me that she would never sit in the stands again," Longshore recalled.
Indeed, that's what happened. Longshore said his daughter has worked very hard during the past year to improve her game.
The winner of the regional will advance to the World Series in Kirkland, Wash. Back in the days when Bill Longshore was the manager of the Braves — working alongside coach Robert Iamurri — state titles and trips to World Series were fairly common. Even though Bo never made the journey, he did contribute to the team's playoff drives in other ways. One year when he was living in Jacksonville, he scouted an opponent from Orange Park and provided a report to his dad.
The scouting report on Tampa Bay, whose young roster is filled mostly with 13-year-olds, is a good one.
"We have a great hitting team and we have three great pitchers," Longshore said. "I like our chances to get to the finals."