“After we did that they ran an article in the Omaha World-Herald with the headline, ‘A Grand Hobby,’” Petersen said.


Over the next 10 years, T’s kept dominating the incredibly competitive Omaha softball scene, going head-to-head weekly with other local powerhouses like Budweiser, East Homes and Wahl Optical, while continuing to fly the flag nationally on weekends for Nebraska softball.

“The teams in Omaha made us better,” Petersen said.

Slow pitch softball was so popular at that time the Omaha World-Herald posted weekly Top 25 rankings and included the open league schedule and standings in its sports section.


“There was a five year stretch where Budweiser was playing AA and we were playing A and we finished on top of the rankings three times and they finished number one twice," Petersen said.

But as slow pitch player participation started to dwindle in Omaha and across the U.S. in the early 2000s, competitive softball changed. Sponsorships became harder and harder to come by and teams started to expand their geographic reach in order to keep their roster competitively nationally.

And while T’s obviously didn’t have sponsorship issues, they did start to expand their roster base. Each year they would add a player or two regionally, which enabled them to continue to play at the highest level of the sport.

Around that same time, Petersen decided to step away from the game a little bit and turned the day-to-day operations of the squad over to one of his veteran players, Jared Babbitt.

Babbitt kept the T’s train on the tracks for three years before turning the reigns over to another veteran T's player, Nick Shaw, in 2012. The transition was seamless and Shaw continued to ensure the team remained the standard-bearer for Nebraska softball. However, each year it seemed the roster continued to lose one or two local players, which essentially turned T’s into more of a Midwest team and less of an Omaha Metro team.

“As that team aged, we had to pick up more out of town guys and it kind of grew out of necessity in order to compete at the highest level,” Shaw said.

In 2015, T’s 13 finished the year at 77-22, placing fourth in ASA B, third in A and fourth in Super – which is quite a remarkable achievement.

However, even with all of that success, Shaw walked away with an empty feeling that season.

“I was missing the fun side of softball, the road trips and brotherhood,” he said. “The guys on those Midwest T’s teams are great friends and brothers, but the logistics of it all took some of the fun out of it.”

It was at that time that Shaw came up with an idea. He wanted to return T’s 13 to their roots and build a brand new team once again comprised of players from the Omaha Metro.

“I went to T with the idea after the season about having two teams,” Shaw said. “It helped that his son Ronnie was becoming old enough to play and this would allow us to build a team he could play on.”

Shaw quickly assembled a team of players from the Omaha Metro with a couple of others from Lincoln. And for the first time in his nearly 40-year years as a sponsor, Petersen fielded two teams -- one in A and one in C.

For the new T’s 13 team, it did not take long for them to find success in 2016. They started the season by rolling to the Spring Swing tournament title in Kearney, while also finishing high at Corky’s Early Bird and Fireman’s. However, they failed to deliver at ASA C Nationals, going 0-2.


“We ran into some buzz saws at nationals, but we weren't ready to play either,” Shaw said. “We aren't a big ‘rah-rah’ team, but we were flat.”

Overall, including the disappointment at nationals, 2016 set a solid foundation for the new team to build on.

“The entire year was a good learning experience for us,” Shaw said. “We learned a lot about ourselves.”

With a season under their belt, T’s took to the field in 2017 on a mission -- national championship or bust. They competed in the open division at most tournaments, regularly going head-to-head with A and B teams from across the Midwest.

“Doing well at all the open tournaments throughout the year gave us confidence going into nationals,” Shaw said.

Shaw said he knew they had turned the corner from a good-to-a-great team right away during their first game at ASA C Nationals.

“In the first inning, the other team put up 10 runs on no home runs,” Shaw said. “But we fought back and won that game pretty easily.”

T’s went 4-0 to advance all the way to the winner's bracket final where they would face an also undefeated Army Black squad. And even though they were 15-runned and sent down to the loser’s bracket, Shaw never lost confidence.

“The lessons we had learned playing the best competition in the Midwest over the last two years prepared us for that,” he said. “We knew what we were capable of and that we could compete with anyone.”

They bounced back and returned to the championship game where they not only double-dipped Army Black for the national title, but ten-runned them 16-6 and 22-12. It was Peterson’s first national title since 2001.

“You do it for so many people, but to win T another one was the biggest thing for me,” Shaw said.

“It’s so hard to win one, so it was great to do it again with an Omaha team,” Petersen said.

After claiming the national title, T’s moved up to B in 2018, where they have been very competitive. In fact, they have split a majority of their games against the Midwest T’s team, who have continued to stay together competing in the Super and A divisions.

However, in 2020 there will once again only be one team wearing the legendary T’s 13 uniforms, and it will be the team comprised of players mostly from Nebraska.

“We knew the end was near (for the Midwest T’s team) when we came up with the idea of the Omaha team, but we wanted to bridge the gap for (a couple of years) because that team deserved it and T is a very loyal sponsor,” Shaw said.

So as their 2020 campaign begins, Petersen’s thirst for softball excellence remains unquenchable as much as it was the first time T’s 13 took the field.

Even with more than 3,500 wins under their belt, multiple national championships and hundreds of tournament titles, the goal for T’s 13 this season remains the same as always.

“Of course we want to win another national title,” Petersen said.

The drive for T’s fifth national title begins in Kearney on April 3. They plan to compete in the USA A and B National tournaments from Sept. 3-5 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, before heading to Viera, Florida, for the USSSA B World from Sept. 19-20.

          2020 Brings Drive for National Title Number Five

          

  


Omaha -- In every sport, there are those teams whose name alone conjures up certain feelings and reactions to anyone who hears it.

Whether it is undying loyalty, utter hatred, true respect or long-standing tradition, teams like the Yankees, Cowboys and Lakers have it all.

In men’s slow pitch softball, T’s 13 is undoubtedly one of those teams.

Established in 1981, Terry Petersen has built a national powerhouse whose name is easily recognizable from coast-to-coast as one of the blue bloods in the game.

“I had no idea it would turn into this when we started it all,” Petersen said.

From the very beginning of their existence, Petersen built T’s 13 roster with players from mostly the Omaha Metro area. Enabling him to do so was the fact that from the 1970s to 1990’s, Omaha was essentially the softball capital of the world. At its height, the city had more 2,700 ASA registered teams and more than 30,000 players.

“I had coached and sponsored the Westroads Racquet Club team for a few years and finally one guy said, ‘you’re the best sponsor, so why don’t you have the best team,’” he said. “From there we went out and picked up the best eight or nine guys in Omaha and combined them with three or four of my guys and that really started it for us.”

Using that incredible talent pool to their advantage, T’s 13 competed at the highest levels of ASA, NSA and USSSA across the country from the very start.

“When we first started out we really didn’t even know anything about being an A, B or C team,” Petersen said. “But we went to Waterloo, Iowa, that first year and finished fifth out of 91 teams.”

In fact, T’s won more than 1,000 games in their first ten years as a team.