Luis Reyna is very hard to get a hold of, not that it’s his fault.
After all, he’s a pretty busy guy. As a professional slow pitch softball player for Suncoast Reebok as well as the co-owner and manager of Reyna’s Heating and Air along with his father, Reyna constantly balances the responsibilities of training and practicing with those of running a business.
But if you ask 26-year-old Reyna if working for the family business takes up a lot of his time, he’ll simply give a little sigh, quickly offer a “yeah,” and promptly change the subject.
Having emigrated from Cuba to Tampa, Florida along with his family at 12-years-old, Reyna knows how lucky he is to have the opportunity to both claim part-ownership of a successful business and play a professional sport, especially since the 5’5’’, 165 pounder may strike you as a slow pitch underdog as first glance. It’s no surprise at all, however, to learn that Reyna started out in a sport where his small frame was much less of an issue.
“Back in Cuba, my sport was soccer,” remembers Reyna. “Actually, my dad played pro soccer when I was growing up. It’s a funny story, when I got to Florida, my mom’s dad saw me playing soccer and said ‘Oh no, you’re playing baseball now.’”
From there, Reyna began a successful baseball career. The shortstop played all four years on his high school baseball team at Hillsborough High School in Tampa, FL. In 2005, his senior year, Reyna’s team even made it to the regional tournament, which was great preparation for his college career at Ranger College just west of Fort Worth, Texas.
When Reyna’s time at Ranger College came to a close and he moved back to Tampa, he found himself without a way to play on a baseball team and missing the game that he’d grown so accustomed to. But, before long, fate intervened and Reyna’s problem was solved.
“I came back from college to Tampa, and a buddy of mine from high school dragged me out to a big night game in 2008,” says Reyna. At just 22-years-old, this was the first time that Reyna had ventured into slow pitch, but he quickly took to the game and enjoyed playing with a team again. Reyna points to playing in his local Super Draft Tournament to explain what connected him with the people who would ultimately get him into professional slow pitch.
“That was kind of where it got started,” says Reyna. “I was lucky to be around all of the people who were there, like Pete Campbell and Tony Elrod.”
Reyna is now closing in on what will be his fourth year playing professional slow pitch and his third season playing with his current team, Suncoast Reebok. In 2011, Suncoast Reebok went 31-20 overall in Conference USSSA Play with an 11 and 6 tournament record versus in-class teams.
This upcoming season, Reyna says that success and improvements should be expected from the Parrish, Florida based Suncoast Reebok Team.
“I’m excited this season, because we’ve got some guys coming to our team that used to play on Resmondo (Resmondo-Specialty Tank/Worth, 2011 Conference USSSA Champions), like Dennis Rulli and Jeff Wallace,” says Reyna. “There are older guys who have been playing these games for a long time and younger guys who are just getting into it. It really is like a family to me.”
With the 2012 Conference USSSA season quickly approaching, Reyna is excited to be back playing in USSSA tournaments again.
“I just like the rules, you know, and the umpires are real professional,” says Reyna. “They take their job seriously, and you can tell they care. I’ve played in other sanctions around here and they’re just not the same.”
Out of all of the USSSA tournaments played annually (11 in total in 2011 with 18 currently scheduled for 2012), Reyna looks most forward to the Smoky Mountain Classic Tournament in July.
“My favorite (USSSA Tournament) has to be the Smoky’s up in Tennessee. The atmosphere is phenomenal, the fields are good. I look forward to it every year.”
Conference USSSA kicks off the 2012 season on April 19th at the USSSA Hall of Fame Classic in Kissimmee, FL. Last year, Suncoast Reebok went 4-2 at the tournament, placing them 5th overall. Over the offseason, Reyna has been doing his part to improve for the 2012, concentrating specifically on hitting.
“I’m trying to get my hitting a little bit better,” says Reyna. “It isn’t as easy as everyone thinks it is, you know, just because it’s underhand. I try to hit at 100 to 200 swings at least 3 times a week. Maybe I’ll go to a league night here and there, too.”
With a laid-back attitude, despite his full day of responsibilities, Reyna takes the slow and steady approach to training.
“I’m the only one on the team that lives in Florida,” says Reyna. “I really just do my own thing. I usually get up early and hit the gym when it’s quiet.”
“I’m known for my defense,” adds Reyna. “You know, I’m a smaller guy, so I work hard and take pride in that.”
As the above statements would indicate, perhaps Reyna’s biggest strength is that he is incredibly self-aware. Expect to see big effort, big talent, and big performance from this ‘smaller’ slow pitch shortstop in the 2012 Conference USSSA tournament season.
The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), headquartered in Osceola County, Florida, USSSA is the World's Largest Multi-sport Athletic Organization. Founded in 1968, USSSA has grown to over 3.7 million participants, competing in 13 nationally sanctioned sports including Baseball, Fastpitch, Slow Pitch, Karate, Basketball, Soccer and more! For more information on USSSA and to register your team visit USSSA.com. Also be sure to visit USSSAToday.com for the latest USSSA News!