A blast from the past: Going from the Sunblazers to the Panthers

The Sunblazers from the 1980's take a team picture. Photo Courtesy of Martha Falcon/FIU alumni

Written by Daniel Torres/Staff Writer

The FIU softball program has gone through some significant changes since its start in the 1980s. From the Sunblazers to the Panthers.

Former softball player Martha Falcon, shared her insight on the softball program during her time on the team during the 1980s.

The recent success of the team shows how far this program has come along. The Panthers are currently having a fantastic season with a 17-9 season record starting off conference play this weekend against Western Kentucky University.

The FIU alumni played on the softball team from 1981-1983 as a catcher. Falcon talked about the growth the program is going through.

The current location for the home games is Felsberg Field, but that was not always the location for the games.

The Sunblazers played their home games in what is now the north and south turf fields, used for football practices, club sports and intramural sports. The Sunblazers played their games during the afternoon due to the fact that the university had not installed lights for the field yet.

“Fan turnout during that time was very little due to lack of bleachers and no lights for night games,” said Falcon.

The field where the Sunblazers played was renovated during Falcon’s second year on the team.

The university changed the turf, added lights, and bleachers to make it easier for the players and for people to watch the games.

Something that hasn’t been significantly changed is the amount of games that the team plays. The Sunblazers played 30 games a season, whereas the Panthers play 45 games a season.

But what hasn’t changed in the FIU softball program is the that the team plays double headers.

There were also seven innings in a game when the program first started out.

Falcon also touched on the luxuries the current team has when it comes to physical health compared to when she played.

“It takes a toll on you certainly later on your life as I’ve had hip replacement due to the constant bending down and in need of another one,” said Falcon.

Catchers today have the equipment such as padding that can reduce the soreness and comfort level every time they bend down.

One thing that will never change is the bond/togetherness you create with teammates throughout a player’s time on a team.

“Bettyanne, my best friend who I met on the team is still close with me today,” said Falcon. “She is a current resident of Broward and played for the Guatemala national team after transferring from Alabama.”

After being at the university for one year, Falcon was eligible and played on the team for the next three years in what became “the most exciting time of my college career.”  

There are FIU graduates who have come out of FIU with successful careers. Such as NBC 6 news anchor Jackie Nespral, TV actor Danny Pino, Colts player T.Y. Hilton and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez.

Like them, Falcon is successful in her career.

After graduating, Falcon became an administrative assistant in Los Angeles, California before making a return to Miami as part of the marketing team for local Baptist Hospitals.

Feature image by Martha Falcon/FIU alumni

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