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Baker, Veroni are 1998 NFCA Hall of Fame Inductees

Texas Woman's University head coach Dianne Baker and Western Illinois head coach Kathy Veroni are the 1998 inductees into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Both were honored during the NFCA National Convention in St. Petersburg, Florida, last December.

Dianne Baker is a 1975 graduate of Texas Woman's University and has served as the head softball coach at the school since the reinstatement of the sport two years ago. Prior to TWU, she had an incredible coaching career at Stephen F. Austin University. She spent 15 years at the helm of the SFA program, leading it to an NCAA Division II national championship title in 1986, the first and only national team championship in the school's history. Baker, who also served as the university's assistant athletic director from 1982-95, captured her 500th career win April 24, 1995, against Northwestern State. Entering the 1999 season, she has compiled an overall 17-year career record of 549-328-1 (.626), establishing her among the winningest active coaches in the NCAA.

Her coaching honors include being named the 1986 NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year, 1985 and 1986 Regional Coach of the Year, and the 1984 Gulf Coast Conference (GCC) Coach of the Year. Baker's teams won the 1986 GCC title and the 1990 Southland Conference title. For her achievements, Baker was inducted into the SFA Ladyjacks Hall of Honor in 1987. She has coached 17 All-Americans and one Olympian, Sandy Green, a left fielder on the 1996 Canadian Olympic Team.

Baker lettered in five sports at TWU, softball, tennis, field hockey, soccer and badminton, the latter in which she was state-ranked. At shortstop, Baker played on one of the first collegiate teams to represent Texas in the national playoffs.

After earning bachelor's degrees in physical education and health, Baker taught in the Lewisville (TX) Independent School District from 1975-78. She was also the head coach at Delay Middle School and the assistant coach at Lewisville High for track and basketball. She earned her Master's of Education degree from SFA in 1979.

In 1995, after arriving in Denton, Texas, to restart the Pioneer softball program, Baker was inducted into the TWU Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.

Baker holds a faculty position in the Department of Kinesiology and is currently the chair of the NFCA Ethics Committee. She is also a member of the NCAA South Central All-America and Coach of the Year Committee. Baker is recognized as one of the nation's leading softball instructors, has penned two books, published numerous articles and is the featured instructor in two videotape drill series. She is also the director of the Mizuno Coaching Clinic in Texas, one of the premier clinics in the Southwest. She serves as a spokesperson for Mizuno Softball as well as Louisville Slugger and Schutt Sports.

Kathy Veroni has been the head softball coach at Western Illinois for the past 27 years. Under her direction, the Westerwinds have compiled a 635-413-2 record and have finished either first or second in the conference race 20 times in 25 seasons.

Veroni guided the Westerwinds to a 9-2 Mid-Continent Conference record in 1998, finishing on top of the West Division for the second consecutive season and the sixth time in the past seven years. In her career, Veroni has coached the Westerwinds to 19 winning seasons, 11 of which saw at least 30 victories. Her 1995 team broke university records with 37 wins, 16 conference wins and a 1.000 conference winning percentage.

The Rockford, Illinois, native has been an integral part of the development of Western Illinois softball. She brought the team into NCAA Division I status from the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women in 1983, joined the Gateway Conference, and moved to the Mid-Continent Conference in 1993. In the first season of Mid-Continent competition, the Westerwinds captured the tournament championship, earning its first-ever berth in the NCAA tournament.

A respected administrator and clinician, Veroni has served as the Past President of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and has been a key figure in the status of the organizationís membership. The NFCA boasts a membership of almost 3,000 softball coaches around the country.

Veroni entered the 1999 season as the 14th winningest active coach in NCAA softball history. The Westerwindsí mentor collected her 600th collegiate victory against Bradley in 1997, becoming the 13th coach to reach the prestigious mark. She recorded her 300th coaching victory in the Amateur Softball Association in 1985 while leading the Macomb Magic, one of the premier touring teams in the United States. Veroni founded the highly-acclaimed contingent and served as its coach for seven seasons.

Veroni earned her bachelor's degree in physical education at Illinois State University and her master's from Michigan State University. She competed with the world champion Connecticut Falcons, a member of the Womenís Professional Softball League.

Veroni recently authored the book entitled "Coaching Fastpitch Softball Successfully." The 248-page manual uses Veroni's extensive coaching knowledge to outline softball skills as well as program management.

Veroni was also a speaker at a series of USA coaches clinics in St. Louis and Chicago in January of 1998. She was one of four coaches selected from across the country to lecture and demonstrate batting order/tryouts, practice organization and problem drills.