During the summer of 2017, I had the honor of representing the United States in Israel at the Maccabiah Games. It was there, with the help of the U.S. Masters Men’s Softball Team that I decided to start my own website that would represent all of fastpitch softball.
Fastpitch isn’t just a women’s collegiate game. It’s a sport that is played at all levels from youth to club to collegiate to professional to men. I’ve noticed in my years as a sports writer that other outlets don’t cover the full scope of the sport and that’s a void which needs to be filled. Because of the void in softball coverage and just a few months removed from a gold-medal winning summer, Behind the Plate has become a reality.
I attended Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and finished my education at Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Mass Communications. I also bring 10-plus years experience in covering sports for various outlets such as MLB.com, The Tennessean, Tennessee Sports Magazine, Center Ice Magazine, ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio.
I’ve interviewed some of the greatest legends in all of sports like Lisa Fernandez, Sue Enquist, Mike White, Laura Berg, Jessica Mendoza, Don Mattingly, Clayton Kershaw, Albert Pujols, Peter Laviolette, John Tortorella, Terry Crisp, Chris Chelios, Patrick Roy, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane just to name a few.
With softball at an all-time high and back in the Olympics, it’s up to the coaches, the players, the fans and the reporters to continue to grow the game that we all love.
And just remember, the best view to see the game is from Behind the Plate!
Don OleaArt Director
San Diego native, Don Olea has more than 25 years experience in the newspaper, magazine and sports industries. Olea began his professional career in 1987 working in the advertising and marketing departments for the San Diego Chargers and Padres.
He spent nine years (1990-99) with the Reno Gazette-Journal (Gannett West Headquarters) as a graphic designer, photographer and cartoonist. In 2000, he joined the staff as an associate art director and photographer for Billboard Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter and Amusement Business Magazine in both their Nashville and Los Angeles offices. He has also served as a award-winning freelance art director, photographer, paginator and copy editor for other Gannett papers in Tennessee and the North County Times (San Diego).
Olea’s vast knowledge of the publishing industry has enabled him to work as an advisor to numerous startup publications including, Nevada Parent Magazine, Total Pack Edge, Nevada Sports Authority, USAthletics, Venues Today, Center Ice Magazine and Tennessee Sports magazine.
As a sports photographer, Don covered the NHL’s Nashville Predators from 2004-2011. He teamed up with author Justin B. Bradford in 2016 for his book, “Nashville Predators: The Making of Smashville”. Which details the fascinating history through unique player anecdotes and perspectives from those involved in the teams rise to prominence. Don’s photos are featured throughout the book as well as the front and back cover photos.
Aaron VailContributing Writer
Aaron Vail brings 15 years of coaching experience at the NCAA Division I and III, NJCAA, travel ball and high school levels. He currently is the Director of Softball Operations for USA Preps, LLC., which is the largest instructional camp and tournament company in the United States. Along with his role at USA Preps, Vail is the Club Director and head coach for the Easton Preps 16U Premier team.
Before joining USA Preps, Vail served as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Oregon State University where he worked with infielders and hitting. Under his coaching, the Beavers had their best offensive season to date with a .306 batting average and improved their fielding percentage from .951 to .962. Three of the four starting infielders were named to the Pac-12 All-Conference Team.
In addition to earning his 4-Star Master Coaching Certification, he is completing his B.S. in Sports Coaching and M.S. in Applied Kinesiology. He also holds his ASA Ace Level III Certification.
On the field, Vail is an ASA All-American and International Softball Congress 23U All-World Men’s Fastpitch Player. He has won four silver medals playing in ISC and NAFA 23U World Championships.
Vail is also the Owner/Operator of Aaron Vail Fastpitch in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Webdrop StudioWebsite Design & Development
We are beyond excited to be members of the Behind The Plate Softball team. We have known Maren Angus and Don Olea for many years, both professionally and personally, and were honored when asked to be part of the team. We hope we can maintain the high standards and forward thinking innovation that will make BTP Softball THE destination for fans of the game.
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