Family bond sparks success

June 24, 2011
Baylor softball ace Whitney Canion

It's hard enough to parent a child through their teen years. But for Baylor softball ace Whitney Canion, those troubles were double, as her father Ron also served as her coach for most of that time.

"It was very stressful," she remembers. "We didn't have a great relationship; I didn't want be told by my dad what to do at practice. ... My parents will show films sometimes of my bad attitude. Now I look at my dad and think, 'He did all that because he knew I could be good.' I tell him all the time that I was immature then, but now I think [his effort] is why I am where I'm at now. I thank him to this day, every day."

The Canions' combined efforts created quite a pitcher. Though having just completed her sophomore season at Baylor, the native of Aledo, Texas (west of Fort Worth), already may be the top pitcher in program history.

"She's easily the best," head coach Glenn Moore says emphatically. "We've had some pretty good arms here. ... But Whitney's easily the most talented pitcher we've had."

As evidence, Moore points to Canion's spot atop the list of Baylor's career strikeout leaders -- a record the lefty attained before reaching the end of her sophomore year. She's also among the program's top 10 in 12 other categories, including ERA (second), shutouts (third) and wins (fifth).

"[Those records] are good to see at times, but they're not what I want to see in the end," Canion says. "When I leave Baylor, I don't want people to remember that I broke a record; I want to leave Baylor saying we were Big 12 champs, that we won the College World Series. Something like that would mean a million times more to me than breaking a record."

Moore says the relationship between Canion and her father is one reason for her success.

"I see a dynamic that I aspire to have with my 11-year-old daughter, a relationship that I aspire to have," he says. "Just hearing his voice will boost [Canion's] confidence and give her reassurance that everything's okay. He's done a great job of being what she needed, then allowing us to coach her and help her grow. I love their relationship, because I know it's genuine; she needs that. I'd love to have the effect on my daughter, confidence-wise, that Ron's had on Whitney."

Like her counterpart on the Baylor baseball team, Logan Verrett, Canion dreams of playing professionally. "They have a little pro league for softball; it's just three teams right now. I'd definitely like to play as long as my arm will allow me to."

She's also considering pursuing a career as a collegiate pitching coach, or perhaps even returning full circle to work for her father and alongside her brother in the family business, R&L Electric.

"My dad started it himself 18 years ago in Weatherford, right next to Aledo where we live. Now it's grown to over 100 employees doing all-around electrical work. My dad wants me to be his accountant and bookkeeper," says the marketing and management double major.

What more could a father ask for?

Canion led the Lady Bears to the best season in program history in 2011, as Baylor reached the semifinals of the College World Series and was one of the final four teams standing.

Head coach Glenn Moore's squad finished the year 47-15, the program's fourth-best win total ever. Playing in likely the nation's toughest conference, Baylor finished fourth in the Big 12 but was named the No. 11 seed for this year's NCAA tournament. The Lady Bears swept through the Maryland Regional and upset No. 6 seed Georgia in the super regional to reach the CWS for the second time ever.

One of four Big 12 teams among the CWS' eight-team field, Baylor made ESPN's top plays twice thanks to a pair of extra-inning, walk-off home runs that each won 1-0 games. The Lady Bears beat Oklahoma State 1-0 in eight innings and No. 5 seed Missouri 1-0 in 13 innings, but failed to score in losses to No. 2 seed Alabama (3-0) and top seed Arizona State (4-0).

In addition to placing a conference-best eight players on the Academic All-Big 12 first team, the Lady Bears also placed five on the All-Big 12 team, including three first-teamers in Canion, outfielder Kathy Shelton and shortstop Dani Leal. Canion (second team) and Leal (third team) later were named Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Americans.

Next year's squad loses just two graduating seniors from this year's team.