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Butler softball benefits from Doug Chance’s career change

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, May 13, 2014, at 7:56 p.m.

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Doug Chance had a Ferrari.

It was a sweet ride. He also owned a business, selling transmissions, that was incredibly lucrative.

In 2002, he traded it all for a 1991 Honda Civic and a dream.

“I called it my hooptie, the thing had over 200,000 miles on it when I got it,” Chance said, laughing. “My wife, Suzanne, told me to go follow my dreams and we’d make due. I had a good woman behind me. That made the difference.”

That dream has taken Chance, in his 10th year as Butler Community College’s softball coach, to the elite levels of the NJCAA as Butler (36-8) takes on North Central Texas (43-16) on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the first round of the NJCAA Division I Tournament in St. George, Utah.

It’s the Grizzlies’ fourth straight trip to nationals and sixth under Chance — they also went in 2007 and 2008.

And the whole thing started with Chance taking the biggest risk of his life.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t like what I was doing before,” said Chance, a Haysville native. “I worked with my family, which was great, but the job itself was stressful. We filled orders all over the world and I would get 100 phone calls a day from people who needed things, like, yesterday … I would come home from work and my wife would ask me what I wanted for dinner and I would tell her I wanted Maalox.”

Suzanne noticed something besides the stress, however. A longtime fastpitch softball player and coach, Chance was an assistant coach at Friends and coached summer ball in his spare time.

“She pointed out that for those two or three hours all my troubles would go away, all the stress was just gone,” Chance said. “So I sold my stake in the business, traded in the hot rods and took a job at Wichita State as an assistant coach under Tim Walton making $8,000 dollars per year.”

Adding to the risk factor was that the Chances were starting a family — their first child, Cal, was only nine months old at the time. Chance did his time as a low-paid assistant at WSU, then as coach at Wichita East before coming to Butler. Since then, the Chances added two more children to their family — daughters Anna, nine, and Ally, five.

“There comes a time in your life when you’ve just got to follow your dreams,” Suzanne said. “I was behind him 100 percent … and the rewards have been immense for our family because of the young women we’ve had in our lives. We hope we’ve impacted them in the same way.”

The Grizzlies have never finished lower than third in the Jayhawk West under Chance, with seven league titles including the last four and last season’s record season, when Butler rose to No. 1 in the nation for the first time.

Butler has also become a conduit to Division I colleges — under Chance, the Grizzlies have sent 31 players to Division I programs. That’s more than all of the other 20 Kansas community colleges combined.

Off this year’s team, star pitcher Sydnee Eck, an Andale native, has signed with Creighton. Catcher Kate James, a Maize High product, signed with Arkansas in November.

“He doesn’t want us to be too serious, he wants us to have fun,” James said. “Except for when it comes to games. Or nationals.”

The Grizzlies’ highest finish at nationals was last season, when they finished fourth. Of all the teams in St. George, only Butler plays without full scholarships.

“It’s not really a level playing field, but you just have to work a little harder, recruit a little harder … play a little harder,” Chance said. “But on every level of softball, even at the highest levels of Division I, you’ve got to fight for what you get because you’re not a marquee sport. But when you’re doing something you love, it becomes part of you … you’ll do whatever it takes to make it work.

“This is no different.”

Reach Tony Adame at 316-268-6284 or tadame@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @t_adame.

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