"Time for more camping and motorcycle riding."
That's what Kenny Walters has to look forward to after stepping down as University High's softball coach, concluding a 10-year run in the Titans' dugout. Walters, 54, posted a career winning percentage of .741, notching 180 career victories.
Walters transformed the fledgling program into a perennial contender, culminating with a memorable 2021 season. The Titans went 25-1, were crowned regional champions and booked a trip to the Final Four for the first time in school history.
"This is going to sound a little selfish. I told my wife and my family a long time ago that once I felt I wasn't needed anymore, then it was time to step away," Walters said in a phone interview. "Times have changed. Everything is instant for the kids, and they have got a lot of training elsewhere now."
The Titans followed that remarkable 2021 run with another 20-win campaign this past spring, falling one step short of a Final Four return with an 11-0 loss to Pace.
University produced two multi-time News-Journal Players of the Year during Walters' tenure in charge — pitcher Penny Nichols and infielder Aminah Vega. Twenty-one players signed with college programs, including Vega (Duke), pitcher Grace Taylor (Mercer), infielder Zoe Hines (Boston College) and youngest daughter Ally Walters (Appalachian State).
"I'm proud of what the kids have become. I've talked to so many since they have graduated, and they have flourished into adults," Walters said.
Ally and older sister Shelby served as Walters' assistants the past two seasons, but neither will return this spring, Kenny said. Ally teaches at Spirit Elementary School in Deltona, and Shelby works as a certified medical assistant in Orange City.
During his high school days, Walters was an accomplished athlete in his own right. The Orlando Sentinel selected the former Taylor High outfielder as its Volusia County Player of the Year in 1985 when he hit .425 with 32 RBIs.
"It closes a chapter; it's not a sad one," Walters said. "I think I had more fun coaching the girls than when I played. You could see their improvements, and how happy they were. I'm proud of all that we accomplished, and we did it the right way."
Athletic director Staci Hahn said she could always trust Walters to do the right thing and admits his absence will be "tough shoes to fill."
"Kenny is going to be exceptionally missed," Hahn said. "He brought composure, a myriad of knowledge and remembered the game was still a game. I loved going to his practices and hearing the laughter on the softball field in the middle of them, watching relay races for conditioning.
"Ultimately, he was all about teaching the young ladies and preparing them for life after high school, using softball as a vehicle as a training ground for life."
As for a replacement, Hahn said she has hired Richard Gonzalez from nearby Taylor. Gonzalez guided the Wildcats to a 53-20 record the previous four seasons, including a trip to the Region 4-1A final this past spring.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: High school softball: Kenny Walters steps down at Orange City University