Former Rays pitcher Doug Waechter was a starter. His good friend John Vigue pitched in the Rays’ minor-league system and coached a high school baseball team to a state final four.
But their favorite positions by far have been coaching youth teams with their children on the roster.
Today, the friends coach their collective four children on three baseball and softball travel teams, practicing twice a week and playing in two tournaments a month. Their fall and spring schedules are as rigorous as any professional team, they say, except for the pay scale.
The volunteer coaches started working together when Waechter’s daughter Karsyn, now 10, and Vigue’s oldest daughter, Riley, 10, were on a tee-ball team together. The Muckdogs were named for the Miami Marlins’ Batavia Muckdogs — a team where Waechter played briefly on a rehab assignment.
“We got the girls Muckdog hats and took over Muckdog nation,” Vigue said.
“They were a totally loaded team. We put on everybody we knew and liked and, more importantly, whose parents we liked. It was a lot of fun. We have great families. We are very lucky.”
Vigue, a graduate of Seminole High School, and Waechter, from St. Petersburg’s Northeast High, have known each other since their mothers became friends when they were children. Waechter, a high school star quarterback, originally signed to play football at USF but was drafted by the Rays and decided to pitch professionally instead. His father-in-law, Rick Kravitz, was a co-defensive coordinator for the USF team and is now head football coach at Admiral Farragut Academy.
Vigue played baseball for USF.
Vigue’s and Waechter’s careers overlapped in 2002 when they both ended up in Charleston, S.C., playing for the Rays’ Class A Charleston RiverDogs. Years later, when they landed back in St. Petersburg, Vigue asked Waechter to join him in coaching the varsity baseball team at St. Petersburg Catholic High School where he worked from 2008 to 2012, taking the team to the state final four in his final year.
The job offered a stipend, but, sadly, no signing bonus. Waechter agreed at first, but later realized he would be too busy with the tee-ball team to make the commitment.
“I didn’t really get it at first, I mean, tee-ball?” said Vigue. But when his own daughter joined a softball team at St. Petersburg’s Fossil Park a couple years later, he didn’t want to be anywhere else.
Vigue is now the head coach for his two daughters (Riley and Avery, 8) and Karsyn Waechter. They are affiliated with the Northwest Youth Baseball and Softball league where they practice. Waechter is his assistant on that team and also the head coach of his 12-year-old son Kayden’s baseball team based at Fossil Park.
Both teams have the same name, the Florida Alliance, and the same colors, red, white and blue.
Coaching tee-ball was as eye-opening as facing some of the aces in the majors, said Waechter. He and Vigue were surprised that some of the other coaches in the league were simply teaching their players how to score through the errors and mistakes for which tee-ball is known. Instead, they decided to focus on the fundamentals.
“We teach them how the game is supposed to be played,” said Vigue.
Practices involve making plays by executing good throws, making smart base-running decisions and learning how to swing the bat.
Because Waechter has had a number of arm surgeries and Vigue is scheduled to have shoulder surgery in December, they are especially careful to make sure their children get rest to prevent injuries.
Riley Vigue is a pitcher and Karsyn Waechter catches for the Florida Lady Alliance. They have several days rest a week as well as several months off each year. During their offseasons, the coaches meet with the softball and baseball players for strength training at a local conditioning center.
But they insist the players take time off from softball and baseball too.
“They need an offseason where they can play multiple sports,” said Vigue. His daughters have played soccer as well.
The enthusiasm from their daughters’ teams took some getting used to. “With the girls you mention one thing and they’re like, okay, right. We’re on it. And they’re excited to do it,” said Vigue.
They were more used to coaching boys who, Waechter said, “usually would need to be told something three or four times before they knew you meant it. The girls love to do workouts.”
Sometimes too much.
Neither dad is a fan of the constant dugout cheering and chanting they have come to accept from the softball players during games.
“There was none of that when I was coaching high school,” said Vigue. “But that’s just softball.”
Last year, the Lady Alliance team took second place in its spring season.
“We took our lumps last year,” said Vigue.
So far this fall, the team has won one tournament and placed second in another.
But winning isn’t the only thing these coaches want to teach their children. Both Waechter and Vigue have day jobs that don’t involve baseball. Waechter is a Realtor and Vigue is vice president of a direct mail marketing business in Clearwater. Waechter also moonlights as a broadcaster for Fox Sports Sun’s RAYS LIVE! doing pregame and postgame analysis for the Rays.
All of the Florida Alliance players volunteer regularly to serve the community. The teammates have served meals to the homeless and helped with the Special Olympics.
“We’re trying to teach them some humility and what life is,” said Vigue.
They also want their children to develop the same lifelong friendships they have forged through baseball.
“We want them to be in each other’s weddings,” said Vigue. “Well, but not anytime soon.”