Among the goals of newly appointed Parks, Recreation and Tourism Sports Coordinator Trevor LaHaye is to return Payson to the status it once held as Prescott’s rival for the title of softball capital of Arizona.
“At one time, softball was a real positive event up here,” said LaHaye. “People from all over came here to play and it was great for the economy and great for the town.”
The new sports coordinator believes softball can once again become a viable recreational opportunity attracting throngs of visitors, especially those from the Valley, to the Rim Country.
LaHaye, a 25-year-old native of Payson and the son of former Parks and Recreation Director Ray LaHaye, fondly recalls yesteryear when Payson hosted men’s, women’s and coed softball tournaments on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.
The Independence Day Firecracker tournament was at one time one of the premier softball shootouts in the state.
The holiday tournaments drew players from around the state to Payson where visitors filled local hotels, ate in restaurants, shopped and purchased fuel.
“They spent a lot of money here,” LaHaye said.
Those tournaments were started by former Payson mayor Ted Pettet, and continued by his son Teddy Pettet. Both were ASA state softball commissioners, a title that is now held by Prescott’s Don Fishel, himself a former Town of Payson recreation coordinator.
“I’ve talked to Don about bring softball back (to Payson) and he’s willing to help,” LaHaye said.
No one is certain why Payson fell off the map as a softball hot spot, but the decline occurred in the late 1990s and now Show Low and Prescott are the chosen sites for most tournaments.
In addition to returning adult tournament softball to the Rim Country, LaHaye would also like to have the town host girls’ fast pitch tournaments.
Just three years ago, the town dropped its girls’ slow pitch softball program, allowing Little League to host a spring and summer fast pitch league.
He sees ASA tournaments supplementing the Little League program, giving the athletes more playing opportunities.
While softball is a priority for LaHaye, another goal is for Payson to host camps in other sports such as basketball, soccer and wrestling.
LaHaye’s older brother, R.C., is the head wrestling coach at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, and Trevor believes he would be amicable to hosting a youth wrestling camp in the town.
“I have a lot of ideas, but they have to be budget-friendly,” Trevor said.
He also has some inroads into soccer since he was an all-region high school player player who went on to play at Blair Cliff University before an injury ended his career.
The 2004 Payson High School graduate takes over his new job well prepared, having last year earned a bachelor’s of science degree in recreation from Grand Canyon University. He has a minor in athletic coaching.
Prior to returning to his hometown, he worked as a coach-counselor at Canyon State Academy, formerly Arizona Boy’s Ranch.
“I enjoyed my work helping kids get a second chance,” he said. “It was very rewarding.”
LaHaye admits he was hesitant about leaving Phoenix and returning to Payson, but after days of mulling the job offer over, “it just felt right to take the job and move back.”
While, LaHaye has spent some time planning long-range goals, there are several immediate tasks he must take care of in his new job.
The duties include overseeing the upcoming Punt, Pass and Kick competition, fall co-ed softball, NFL youth flag football and fall soccer.
The Punt, Pass and Kick competition will kick off at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 31 on the Rumsey Park north multipurpose field.
Fall co-ed softball registration ended Aug. 19 and games begin Monday, Aug. 30 on the Rumsey II ball field.
NFL flag football registration ended Aug. 9 and league play also begins Aug. 30 at Rumsey.
Fall youth soccer, one of the department’s most popular offerings, tips off Saturday, Aug. 28 and continues through October. Games are played Saturdays at Rumsey Park.
For information about any of those programs or to speak with LaHaye, call (928) 474-5242, ext. 7. Online information is at www.paysonparks.com.