National Pro Fastpitch softball announced the newest club to join its ranks will be led by a champion: Kirk Walker.
Walker is the out assistant coach of the NCAA Division 1 Champion UCLA Bruins, the most decorated team in college softball. They swept Oklahoma in June to win their 12th World Series title. And the good news for the Bruins is that Walker is staying on as assistant coach.
But he is going to be one busy man. In addition to accepting the position of head coach of the California Commotion, Walker was also named the team’s assistant general manager.
“Excited to help lead the CA Commotion back as a Professional team while still coaching at UCLA and building champions!” Walker posted on his Facebook timeline following the announcement.
NPF is the nation’s only professional fastpitch softball league, and has been an official development partner of Major League Baseball since 2004. Until the Commotion, the league had no presence on the west coast.
As Kayla Lombardo of Softball America reported, the Commotion is the first West Coast team in the NPF league since 2005. Entrepreneur and UCLA graduate Damon Zumwalt owns the club, and former NPF Events Director Deb Hartwig is its general manager.
In a statement released by NPF, Walker said he was looking forward to helping to “grow the professional level of fastpitch on the west coast.”
“The history of the California Commotion is based on putting high level athletes with great passion and character on the field to produce a winning culture. It is an honor to work with Damon and Deb to build an organization that can extend the opportunity for high level collegiate athletes to compete and perform on the professional stage. California and the west coast have a rich tradition for impacting the sport of softball from the grass roots level and beyond. With the great year round weather and the huge numbers of young women playing the game here on the west coast, there is a huge opportunity to entertain, educate, motivate and inspire the next generation of athletes and the fans of the game.”
“We know that assembling this team and being competitive in our first season out, will depend heavily on designating the right person to lead the way,” said Hartwig in a statement. “To be able to land a Head Coach with the success, experience, and expertise Kirk brings to this position, is a huge win for this team. I look forward to working with Kirk in his capacity as Head Coach and Assistant General Manager and with this announcement. I am anxious to begin putting our team together.”
The Commotion will begin play in Spring 2020, and the upcoming season will mark the NPF’s 17th in its rich history. We expect more details regarding their schedule to be released in January.
Walker has been a friend of Outsports for years, and led one of our panel discussions at Outsports Pride on the UCLA campus in June 2019. As Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski wrote in May 2019, Walker never set out to be a pioneer, but in the past 12 years he has become one for a generation of LGBTQ people in sports.
Since then, Walker has become a confidant of countless LGBTQ people in sports, helping them reconcile the pressures of balancing their sexual orientation with the sport they love.
This year, his work with the NCAA champion UCLA Bruins once again earned him a place among the NFCA National Coaching Staff of the Year. That title marks his seventh as a staff member of the Bruins, following the titles of ’84, ’85, ’88, ’89, ’90 and ’92. Walker and his fellow staff members were named NFCA Regional Coaching Staff of the Year four times.
Walker began his coaching career while still an undergraduate student at UCLA. From 1984 to 1994, he worked eleven seasons as an assistant coach, then became head coach at Oregon State in 1995. Walker led the Beavers to 10 post season NCAA Tournaments over 18 years, becoming the winningest coach in OSU history. He coached 79 All PAC 10/12 players, 28 NFCA All-Region players, and 10 NFCA All-Americans.
As head coach of the California Commotion Women’s Amateur Softball Association team, Walker led his squad to four consecutive National Titles in the Women’s Major Division.
Players on those teams included Lisa Fernandez, Dot Richardson, Sheila Douty, Lori Harrigan, Michele Granger, Gillian Boxx, Leah O’Brien, Laura Berg, Amy Chellevold, Karen Walker, Pam Newton, Jennifer Brundage, Jill Justin, Debbie Doom, Jenny Condon, Janice Parks, and Lisa Longaker.
Walker’s career has also taken him to the Olympics, as a member of the Team USA coaching staff. First, as a member of the twelve person coaching staff for the quadrennium of 2000-2004, which led up to the Athens Olympic Games of 2004, and later as an Assistant Coach on the 2017 Junior Women’s Team that won Gold at the World Championships.
And Walker doesn’t just coach; he’s been a longtime pitcher in the Men’s Fastpitch Division. In 2018, he was a member of the NAFA Men’s A National Championship team, where he was named to the All World Team for the sixth time in his career.
Outsports sends its congratulations to Kirk Walker and to the California Softball Commotion, and our best wishes to the other teams in the NFP who will face this champion coach in 2020!