Westport Softball Honors “Ax”

Baseball is big in Westport. Our Little League team reached the national championship. Staples has won state titles. All around town, are diamonds are forever filled.

Fast-pitch softball may not get as much publicity. But it’s thriving too.

There is a dedicated softball community, and a decorated history as well.

Last, night, Steve Axthelm — one of its driving forces for more than 2 decades — was honored.

The site was appropriate: Meyer Field. It’s named for Bill Meyer — the father of Westport softball — and Axthelm has picked up where Meyer left off.

Axthelm — who is also a member of Westport’s Parks & Recreation Commission — has spent more than 20 years as head of Westport Softball. He was honored at a ceremony before the Little League Majors championship game, complete with a sign that will hang next to the many championship banners won under his leadership.

Steve Axthelm, at last night’s ceremony. He’s joined by Staples High School varsity softball players (from left) Sophia Alfero, Grace Alfero, Ally Schwartz and Ava Vincini.

Axthelm was introduced to competitive softball like many Westport dads: through his children. But unlike many parent volunteers, he did not stop when his kids’ playing days were over. He continued to lead the program, advocatint for funding and access on behalf of Westport’s youth softball players.

His efforts resulted in 7 district, 2 divisional, 4 sectional and 4 state championships.

Some of the players from those dominant youth teams led Staples to a successful season this year, advancing to the FCIAC semifinals and the state quarterfinals. They fell to archrivals Fairfield Ludlowe in both tournaments.

Axthelm says, “I’m proud to have run a program dedicated to 2 sometimes conflicting missions: give girls the skills to compete at a high level and prepare them to play at Staples (in a few cases, beyond), while also keep as many girls as possible, regardless of skill level, until they age out.

“Studies have shown that girls involved in youth sports are less likely to engage in risky behavior as they grow up. We designed the program to give every girl the confidence to play and enjoy it.”

“Ax” and his wife are headed south for a warm weather retirement. But every June — as Westport begins another softball title run — he’ll be thinking of the town where for so many years, he made his indelible mark.

(Hat tip: Rob Simmelkjaer)

16 responses to “Westport Softball Honors “Ax”

  1. Todd Freeman

    Worthy recognition indeed. Congrats Steve! Great memories..

  2. Vanessa Bradford

    What a great guy! Steve will be missed here in Connecticut!

  3. John D McCarthy

    Thanks for all you did for the girls and softball in Westport.

  4. Ray Wilhelm

    Congrats to a man of many talents. Thanks for keeping the spirit of Bill Meyer alive.

  5. Annie Haskel

    Ax is the real deal. Girls in Westport have benefited from his steadfast advocacy for softball at every level. Congratulations on an amazing and well deserved award.

  6. David J. Loffredo

    You won’t meet many if any men better than Steve Axthelm.

    As the father of three girls, I probably first coached in 2004 and then was the Instructional Commissioner for close to the next decade. Remember the Ducklings, Bunnies, Goslings, Lambs, Puppies, Kittens, Ponies? My kindergartner named them, now she’s an Investment Banker.

    Ax taught so many of us so much, and it was beyond a privilege to work with him all those years and to call him a friend to this day.

    Enjoy your “retirement”. I can only guess if you’re not already you’ll be coaching a grand son or daughter on a diamond sometime soon.

  7. Thanks Ax for all your Parks and Rec service, especially girls softball. Bill would be proud of you.

  8. Steve,
    Congratulations on you receiving this recognition. Thanks for helping
    to keep Westport Softball competitive at all of the levels that Westport LL,
    and Westport Travel softball programs compete in.
    It’s been an interesting and sometimes arduous trip to keep Westport
    Girls Softball competitive in CT and in New England.
    However, thanks to people like you Westport’s girls have been given the
    chance they deserve!!!
    All the Best to All in Westport Softball!!

    Tom Wall
    Westport Softball

    • Stephen Axthelm

      Thank you Tom! You set a pretty high standard yourself!

      • Thanks Steve!! Still at it in New Hampshire. Head Softball Coach at Pinkerton Academy, New Hampshire’s largest public high school. My daughter Kelly is my assistant. All the Best to All in Westport Softball!!

  9. Diane Johnson

    Well-deserved congratulations indeed, Steve! I had the great honor of acting as Steve’s manager for several summer leagues. What wonderful memories of many awesome moments watching the girls’ skills develop along with all the friendships formed and lessons learned. Our family was very blessed to have our older daughter coached by Tom Wall for many years, and our younger daughter coached by Steve Axthelm; grateful indeed!!

    • Stephen M Axthelm

      I remember when you hosted a travel team dinner at your house and I reviewed team hitting statistics (your Bridget was the leader), and I overheard her say to you “he keeps track of that stuff?!?” LOL

    • Thanks Diane!! Hugs to All!!

  10. Augeri Family

    Thank you

  11. Stephen Axthelm

    Thanks for this Dan and Rob. I have been blessed with this opportunity and repaid many times over. When I got to see girls who didn’t think they could make a play or get a hit then do that and realize that they could do it again now was exhilarating. My friend Sara Holland used to say when we coached hitting – ” you’re the one with a bat in your hands!”. Feel the power girls. My father died when I was 6. I was raised by empowered women: my mother Marjorie graduated Staples in 1936. My sister Nancy and my late sister Bonnie could swim, dive or maybe play basketball but that was it. Title 9 was a true game changer. My friend and commenter above, Dave Loffredo who was on the Bloomberg executive team told me that they would look for team sports on resumes. Give them skills and let them experience success and failure in a controlled environment. Build great girls.

    Last great gift for me: both of my kids were the winning pitchers on Senior Night at Staples