Rich Francis became involved in Howard County Youth Program (HCYP) softball in 1995 as a coach for his daughter’s 8U HCYP team. Over the last 23 years and counting, the Howard County resident has provided guidance and leadership to Howard County athletes. Francis – in his role as a coach, softball commissioner (2000-2002), and advisor to the HCYP Softball Committee (starting in 2002) – has helped train and encourage generations of softball and baseball players. He continues to provide crucial advice and perspective to the softball organization as a valued member of HCYP Softball Advisory Board.

In addition to his work with HCYP, Francis has volunteered and umpired in the Maryland Special Olympics’ annual softball tournament for the past 17 years. One of Francis’ favorite memories was being able to work as an umpire during the tournament with his son Kevin, who acted as field umpire.

Francis feels proud to be nominated to the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame, joining a number of his mentors in the field of coaching and umpiring. “In many instances, I just took over where they left off and try to continue to help the young athletes” he says. In turn, he feels proud watching students he has coached over the years carry on this tradition and become softball coaches or umpires themselves.

Volunteer and Howard County resident Bobby Farace has helped lead the Howard County Vipers wrestling team to victories both off and on the mat. In his tenure as head travel coach, Bobby has tirelessly led weekday practices and weekend tournaments. As both a coach and role model, he knows that discipline, respect and self-confidence are more important than any single victory. His coaching has instilled his team with work ethic and interpersonal skills they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Bobby has been the head/assistant coach for both the Wilde Lake Recreational Vipers Wrestling Team (for 3 years) and the Howard County Vipers Travel/Advanced Team (for 10 years).

Farace’s fondest memories during his time as coach include seeing both of his sons win state titles with the Howard County Vipers Program and watching (River Hill State Champion) Sam Johnson accomplish his team goals during his 7th grade year. 

When asked to share with the committee his proudest accomplishments/contributions to community sports in Howard County, Farace stated “I enjoy giving back to the community through a sport that I love so much. Howard County has given so much to me and my family that it feels great to give back and help be a positive role model and force in the lives of so many kids.”

Since 1999, Kathy Reed has done everything from organizing tournaments to coaching teams and negotiating with food vendors for Western Howard County’s baseball and softball programs. Kathy has worked tirelessly to bring a sense of community, fellowship and sportsmanship to each Saturday game day at Western Regional Park. Whether she’s working to ensure a player can afford to participate in a program or grilling hot dogs for hungry spectators at a game, Kathy’s nearly 20-year commitment to the program is unmistakable and astounding.

When asked of her proudest accomplishments or contributions to Howard County community sports, Reed lists working with her fellow volunteers to transition the Rec Softball Program from modified slow pitch to fast pitch, including the creation of player and coaching clinics in cooperation with high school and travel players. “The younger players got a kick out of being coached by the older girls in their fancy uniforms and those girls enjoyed the admiration from the little ones” said Reed.
Reed’s best memories of Western Howard County’s baseball and softball programs always center on the kids she’s spent time with as a coach, director or concession worker. She emphasizes how happy the program makes children, whether playing on the field or helping out on the sidelines. “They are so happy to help out – their delight made the task easier.” For Reed, it was a privilege to belong to an organization that provided children with so many opportunities.