It’s no coincidence that the rise of the Highland Park High School softball program has coincided with the success of the HP Bombers club team.
The Lady Scots have been to the playoffs three times in the past five years, and during that stretch have shattered program records for wins, district titles, and postseason success.
Steve Orr envisioned those results when he started the club about 15 years ago. It’s why he structured the Bombers differently from other year-round club programs in the Dallas area.
“Our mission is to buttress the high school team — sort of as a farm team,” Orr said. “That’s one of the primary reasons we wanted to get into it.”
The Lady Scots struggled to compete in the program’s infancy due in part to a competitive disadvantage. While other high school players were learning and playing throughout the year, most of HP’s talent was only on the field from February through April.
“They grow up playing together. That’s part of the reason we’ve seen success recently.” -HP coach Michael Pullen
(ABOVE: Steve Orr is the founder and head coach of the HP Bombers, an organization that fields competitive softball teams year-round. Photos by Chris McGathey)
The Park Cities YMCA offered a softball program, but only for girls in elementary school. Highland Park ISD does not have a middle school softball program.
“There was no place to play competitive softball past the Y,” said Orr, whose three daughters have played for the Bombers and Lady Scots during the past decade.
The growth has been slow but steady. The Bombers started with a single team of 12 or 13 girls, and now have almost 50 players spread out among three or four squads, generally ranging in age from 11 to 18. About 90 percent of them are from the Park Cities.
The teams play in leagues and tournaments in both the spring and fall, up to 10 months per year, aided by experienced skills coaches. The 18-and-under squad structures its season around the HP varsity schedule.
“We’re a first-choice sport for a lot of girls now,” Orr said. “Both in the competitive product that the high school has, and the number of girls who are playing softball, we’re feeding more girls into the program.”
HP head coach Michael Pullen said the Bombers have had a valuable impact on skill development and chemistry among players as they transition to the high school level.
“It’s how Highland Park is able to have a softball program. It’s our lifeline,” Pullen said. “They grow up playing together. That’s part of the reason we’ve seen success recently. . .because of that continuity.”