Leaving a Legacy: Earl Turnure and KC Softball

By: Madison Feldhahn

Forty-one years ago, after making his way to Kansas City, Earl Turnure began teaching his daughter Stacey how to play softball. It started as a fun thing between father and daughter, but Earl quickly realized Stacey and her friends were good at softball. So, he created a team for them. Today, it is one of the most prominent clubs in the Kansas City metro area.

“He said, ‘Well, let’s see how good they can be,’. He took us and created a little competitive team,” said Stacey Moore. “There weren’t many of those around, so we had to play teams that were much older than we were.”

This competitive team of Stacey and her friends became the Originals, the first competitive fastpitch team on the Missouri side of Kansas City. At just 12, the Originals team had to play older girls and travel to Kansas to play in a competitive league.

Earl quickly realized his new team needed a pitcher and began teaching Stacey. The popular pitching style at the time was the slingshot. But Earl, who played fastpitch softball, only knew the windmill pitch. So that’s what he taught Stacey.

“People on, at least, the Missouri side had never seen that [pitching style] before, and so they thought it was illegal,” Moore recalled. “They were yelling at us because we were cheating, and we were awful people because we had this cheating mechanism that we were using in the game.”

Quickly, Earl realized there was one way he could improve the game – teaching people how to pitch.

Every Saturday, Earl set up shop at Fort Osage High School. From 8 am to 6 pm, he gave lessons. Anyone who wanted to learn how to pitch just had to show up. Over the years, there were some girls who excelled at pitching, and also some who learned pitching wasn’t quite for them. The player’s skill level didn’t matter to Earl, as long as they put in their best effort.

Soon, the pitching lessons weren’t enough. About twenty years ago, several people approached Earl wanting to become a part of the Originals organization. Without much fuss, he let them.

“It really was not a big deal to him. We had two teams, and then two teams before four, and four teams became one at every age division,” Moore said. “People were like, ‘Well, I want to be a part of this. We want to be a part of them.’ So, it continued to grow.”

As the Originals expanded, Earl kept his sights focused. He wanted every girl who came through the Originals organization to learn and to be given the coach’s best.

“As long as the girls are learning, as long as the girls are having fun, and as long as you are being good sports about it, and you’re teaching good sportsmanship, that’s what I want,” Moore said of her father. “He said, ‘I don’t care if they go on to play in college. I just want them to get the best from us that we have to offer them.’”

In all his years, Earl never took a cent for the coaching he did. This is something that has carried on to this day. Every coach in the Originals organization has always been – and will always be – a volunteer. Earl did it for the love of the game, and that passion has been passed on through the Originals.

“He liked to see girls be challenged. He thrived on them doing better than they ever thought they could,” said Moore.

Earl was a big believer that there is a place for everyone who loves the game. Whether it was Division 1 or NAIA, there was a right fit for his players. He gave the girls everything he could offer to help them find their perfect fit and didn’t ask for anything in return.

Above all, Earl wanted his players to enjoy themselves.

“His motto was as long as you’re having fun, the game will take care of itself,” Moore said. “In his mind, girls did not perform well when there was a tremendous amount of pressure on them. He just wanted it to be fun and to have a good time and that’s what it was. It was very fun and carefree and, at the same time, very competitive.”

When asked about her father’s proudest accomplishments, Stacey cited the growth of fastpitch softball in Kansas City. The Originals are now one of many clubs – something she says is proof to her father that he did something right. The publicity around Kansas City softball is something he would also take immense pride in.

“But at the same time, this was never about him,” Moore said. “This was always about the girls. So long as the girls are the ones who continue to reap those benefits, I think he would be more than proud to be a part of anything that puts the girls first.”

Stacey fondly reflected on the love her father had for the game and for his athletes. He would remind his girls it was just a game at the end of a tough day. And he was always there excited to celebrate the end of a good one.

“I cannot forget the smile on his face when he saw his girls excelling and just doing well or mastering a pitch that they struggled with. He would just giggle, and that smile is forever imprinted on my heart. It is his legacy. His smile. His little spot at Adair Park where everybody would come and talk to him. That’s his legacy,” Moore said. “Just being there, supporting anybody who wanted to improve their game. That’s his legacy.”

Top Gun Events Brings Midwest College Classic Softball Tournament to the Kansas City Metro

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Top Gun Events Brings Midwest College Classic Softball Tournament to the Kansas City Metro

Shawnee, Kansas – [March 6, 2024] – Top Gun Events, a renowned name in elite softball events, today
announced that it is hosting the Midwest College Classic Softball Tournament from February 28
to March 2, 2025, at the Mid America Sports Complex in Shawnee, Kansas. The event will be a
showcase of talent and competition for collegiate athletes from around the region and beyond.
The Midwest College Classic is poised to be a standout event in the collegiate softball scene,
featuring teams from NCAA Division 2, NAIA, and Junior College levels. With a guaranteed
five-game schedule, teams will have the opportunity to compete in a series of matchups, with
two games scheduled for Friday, two for Saturday, and one final game on Sunday.
“We are delighted to host the Midwest College Classic, an event that embodies the spirit of
competition and camaraderie in the softball community,” said Jeremy McDowell, owner at Top
Gun Events. “As a company dedicated to supporting elite softball players and female athletes,
we are proud to put on an event that provides a platform for collegiate players to showcase
their skills and passion for a sport they love.”
The tournament is expected to draw more than 40 colleges from 10 or more states across the
Midwest region and beyond, creating a diverse and competitive field of participants.

Inquiries in registering for the event, please contact: paige.crawford@topgunevents.com.
About Top Gun Events
Top Gun Events is based in Kansas City and hosts premier softball tournaments, providing a platform for
athletes to showcase their skills in a competitive and safe environment. They are committed to
promoting sports excellence and development

Bill Conroy Goes Beyond the Field, Empowering Girls for Life

By: Madison Feldhahn

Even with twenty-seven years of experience coaching softball, Bill Conroy realized his impact on softball players’ lives was limited. So, seven years ago, he created Empowering Girls for Life.

“I thought that doing something, such as Empowering Girls for Life, would end up bringing more than just the athletic aspect of being the best version of yourself to life,” Conroy told Top Gun Events. “It teaches these young ladies to try to find ways to overcome obstacles as opposed to making excuses.”

Empowering Girls for Life offers young women the opportunity to meet, learn from, and talk with high profile women who have broken barriers in their respective fields. These speakers include current coaches, former players, and more. Conroy aims to find successful speakers who inspire the participants to strive for goals both on and off the field.

“Softball is great. It’s a way to help supplement a lot of your financial costs in college. But there’s forty years after the four years that you really have to look at. Ultimately, you want to end up getting your degree and have a career that you’re happy with and can do great things with,” Conroy said.

When asked about how speakers are selected, Conroy stated that he wants someone who is successful in their given field. Previous speakers have included softball coaches like Carol Hutchins, Kate Drohan, and Patty Gasso, as well as athletes like Alycia Baumgardner, Katherine Switzer, and Sydney Supple. The participants have also heard from women who were successful in other careers, such as rocket scientist Olympia LePoint, former Miss America Nina Davuluri, and astrobiologist Alyssa Carson.

In measuring the success of Empowering Girls for Life, Conroy said, “I have noticed I have a number of athletes that are focused on being engineers and doctors and nurses and are wanting a STEM career. We have a greater percentage of that now. I’m hoping that at least some of what we are trying to convey has made some sense to them.”

Conroy hopes the event is meaningful to the participants and makes a difference in their lives. He wants them to understand that they can overcome anything and not use difficult times as an excuse to quit.

“I don’t know if you could end up ever singling out a single event and saying, ‘This changed this person’s life.’ I see that it may change a person’s mindset and their thinking. It may make them more confident that they can overcome any obstacle as opposed to make it an excuse,” said Conroy. “I think that a lot of the stories are focused on that. There have been some road bumps for all these young ladies and women that speak, but you have to find a way to pull yourself through that and become the best version of yourself.”

The 2024 event will take place on August 10th at The Westin Center in Lombard, Illinois. This year’s participants will hear from Karen Weekly, Nijaree Canady, Ellie Cooper, and Jordy Bahl. Sydney Supple will be returning to the event as an emcee.

For more information about Empowering Girls for Life, please visit empoweringgirlsforlife.com.

Peyton Hardenburger Commits to Tennessee

Peyton Hardenburger Commits to Tennessee

Wamego standout softball player Peyton Hardenburger (2025) is officially a Lady Vol.  The star pitcher announced her commitment to play for Tennessee earlier this month.

Hardenburger has been dominate in the circle for the Red Raiders as well as her club team, Select Fastpitch.  Last year, on her teams run to a state championship, she threw two no-hitters in the state tournament, one in the semi-finals, and then again in the finals.  The right-handed pitcher finished the high school season 11-0 with 182 strikeouts and a 0.18 ERA.

A two-time 1st Team All-State selection and the 4A Kansas Pitcher of the year, said she fell in love with the family atmosphere that Tennessee offered.  Something she knew she wanted from her college experience. 

“Immediately I got to experience the town of Knoxville and fell in love with the place.  I couldn’t ignore how much the coaching staff clicked.  I would tell every college the number one thing I want in a program is family” said Hardenburger.

Not only was it the family atmosphere, but also the coaching staff and amazing facilities Tennessee has the helped sell Peyton.  Tennessee is coached by Karen Weekly.  Her husband Ralph previously worked alongside her as her co-head coach. “Though Ralph doesn’t coach anymore, he and Karen have made a family impression on the program.  You could tell the girls had a connection with each other that I share with my teammates, so I knew I would fit right in” said Hardenburger.  “The cherry on top was sitting in Neyland Stadium and listening to Rocky Top for the first time, instant chills.”

The Lady Volunteers are getting a highly competitive pitcher that is confident in her abilities.  “I’ve always been told I’m a crazy competitor, and my mental game is to thank for that.  It’s always been a natural gift for me to step on any field and know I can dominate anyone” said Hardenburger.  That mental toughness will be tested in a strong SEC conference.  Last year the conference finished with nine teams ranked in the final NFCA Top 25 poll.

Peyton plans to major in Sports Marketing while attending Tennessee.  She loves talking about sports and wants to stay involved with sports once her playing career is over. 

Outside of softball, she enjoys giving lessons to younger girls in her area.  She feels like teaching the game allows her to give back to the sport that she loves.  It also helps her stay more engaged with her body and mind.