Thompson shakes off the Dust

"Dick Thompson might be trading colors, but he's not really changing teams.Thompson is swapping the Diamond Dusters red and black for the purple and white of the Snohomish Sidewinders fastpitch program. The team he is coaching this summer, the Dusters' 16-and-under Gold team, will play as Sidewinders 18-and-unders for the 2002 season.Thompson, who founded the Dusters program in 1988 and has taken seven of its age-group teams to national championship tournaments, said that although his new sponsor is based in Snohomish, he views the switch as more one of philosophy than geography.We'll still be down here, and the bulk of our kids still will come from Kitsap County, said Thompson, whose Golds will be one of two Diamond Dusters 16-and-under teams competing in this week's Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Western A Nationals at Turlock, Calif.I have some philosophical differences with things that have been going on (with the Dusters), Thompson said, declining to comment further. He added that at least two of his current assistant coaches - Dan Haas and Bob Pedroza - as well as many Dusters Gold players would be making the transition with him. Both Haas (pitcher-infielder Lauren) and Pedroza (catcher Sarah) have daughters on Thompson's roster, which includes players from Bainbridge Island, North Central and South Kitsap, as well as several out-of-county imports.Paula Grande, who coached a Dusters 14-and-under team two summers ago and continues to coach at North Mason High School, is listed as the Sidewinders' 16-and-under coach for 2002.Another team, the Dusters 16-U Reds, coached by Bruce Welling, has operated in conjunction with Thompson's team for the last several years. The Reds, who won both the ASA and National Softball Association (NSA) state age-group championships earlier this summer, also will be competing in the Western National tourney.Thompson said the switch in allegiances for his team all came about over the last couple of weeks.I've been looking for a change from some things, Thompson said. He added that he had considered leaving coaching completely before next season.I was going to get out, he said. I had another team lined up for the (Dusters Gold) players. But they came back from Colorado (for the annual pre-Fourth of July Fireworks Invitational) and twisted my arm.Thompson said there were considerable perks to joining the Sidewinders camp. That program's patriarch, Snohomish software magnate Jeff Green, has the wherewithal to underwrite the four Sidewinder age-group teams' tournament trips - which will include Colorado and California, among others, in 2002.He's got his own four-field complex, he's got his own indoor facility, he's got good sponsorships already lined up, Thompson said of Green. We've been scrambling every year to get a $30-$35 thousand budget.Thompson intimated that he might have been a victim of his own success. After starting the first Diamond Dusters team, which included his daughter, Julie Meeson, he gradually expanded the program until it incuded as many as six age-group teams. Several years ago, he also instituted A League of Their Own, a Bremerton-based fastpitch league for adult women, many of whom were Diamond Dusters alumni.The financing to cover four, five, six teams has gotten pretty difficult, he said. Some of the parents have been struggling with it. We're moving into an awful good financial situation.Thompson has been with his current nucleus of players since their 12-and-under season, after his original team had risen through the ranks and gone off into adulthood - and, in many cases, college fastpitch careers.I got talked into starting all over again, and I wanted to start with a young group, he said.Thompson, who served as assistant fastpitch coach to first-year head man Robin Campbell at Olympic High School last year, has taken seven teams to ASA National tournaments. "

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