Nevada’s Softball and Baseball programs Hit Grand Slam with Hometown Family
By: Cayley Dishion
The games with a ball and a bat? The Puzey family has got that on lock.
Nearly 38 years ago in the Virginia Street Gym at the University of Nevada, Reno, Jim Puzey met his wife, Kim Puzey, and the rest became history etched into Nevada athletics.
Nearly 40 years ago, number 13 would be worn by multiple members of the Puzey family, heavily impacting the baseball and softball programs at Nevada.
The First of Many
Jim Puzey played for Nevada baseball from 1981 to 1985. During his career at Nevada playing catcher, he earned multiple individual and team achievements including three first-team all-conference selections, selected to the U.S. National Team following his sophomore year, and held numerous Nevada records in runs, hits, and doubles. His honorable achievements earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame induction in 2016.
Jim Puzey was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and moved to Reno, Nevada when he was one. Reno is all Jim Puzey knows and graduated from Reno High School in 1981.
Jim Puzey was offered a partial athletic scholarship to play baseball for Nevada and the rest of his tuition was covered by academic scholarships.
“Nevada was the school I followed growing up,” Jim Puzey said. “I was destined to be a part of the Wolf Pack.”
Kim Puzey grew up in Carson City, Nevada and graduated from Carson High School in 1983. Kim played four years on Nevada softball, switching between first base and pitcher where she made all-conference all four years.
“I chose Nevada because it was close to home,” Kim Puzey said.
“We met at practice in the basement of the old gym,” Jim Puzey said. “The baseball team would take batting practice downstairs and the girls softball team was upstairs playing catch because it was the only indoor facility the University had.”
After his astounding career at Nevada, leaving his mark in the Hall of Fame, Jim Puzey was drafted in the 17th round of the MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He spent five seasons in the Cardinals minor league system, then moved back to Reno, Nevada to start a family.
What Jim did not know was his legacy would be continued at Nevada, with five family members following in his footsteps.
Following in Dad’s Footsteps
Jim’s oldest daughter Brittany was born and raised in Carson City, Nevada but wasn’t always keen on the idea of attending college within miles of where she grew up.
“I’m getting out of here,” Brittany Puzey said. “I’m never going to Nevada, but then everything aligned. I had a good relationship with a lot of the girls on the team. It was a newer program so there was a lot of room to grow.”
Brittany Puzey was offered a full ride to play at Stanford University but at the last minute accepted a full ride to play at Nevada in 2006. The ultimate decision that led Brittany to choose Nevada, her family.
Brittany Puzey started her Nevada softball career playing at Idlewild Park, home field for the Nevada softball team until 2007 when Christina M. Hixson Park became home field for the Nevada Wolf Pack softball team. Since 2007, three Puzey family members would go on to play on this field.
“Obviously a bunch of my family had been there so I could stick around and watch my little brother grow up, watch my little sister go to high school, be around my parents and family.” Brittany Puzey said.
Brittany Puzey’s 2019 induction into the Hall of Fame proves how stellar of an athlete she was during her four-year softball career at Nevada where she held the record at the time for home runs, stolen bases, and most games started and played by any Nevada player.
Shortly after Brittany’s time at Nevada, her younger sister Samantha Puzey attended Nevada to play softball on a full-ride athletic scholarship. Samantha Puzey was born and raised in Reno, Nevada, graduating from Reno High School in 2010.
“I was inspired by my family to go to Nevada as I saw how successful they all were after pursuing their dreams there,” Samantha Puzey said. “Nevada has always been home and the support from the community was a huge factor in my decision to go to Nevada. At the time of my recruitment, the softball program was one of the top 20 teams in the Nation, which made my decision to turn down offers at other schools much easier.”
Unfortunately, Samantha Puzey’s softball career at Nevada ended in 2012 with a career ending knee injury.
But Wait, There’s More
In 2017, Sienna Swain, Jim Puzey’s niece, was recruited to play for Nevada softball. Swain spent 2 seasons playing for Nevada where she helped the team make back-to-back postseason appearances since her cousin, Brittany Puzey, did so back in the 2008–2009 season.
“I chose Nevada because of my family’s roots there,” Swain said. “I was born in Nevada, so it felt like going home. My two older cousins, Brittany and Samantha, were two of my biggest role models growing up and they inspired me to follow in their footsteps.”
The legacy of the Puzey family is currently still making history with Josh Prizina, Jim Puzey’s nephew, playing for Nevada baseball. Prizina was born and raised in Sparks, Nevada graduating from Spanish Springs High School in 2017.
“I chose Nevada because they gave me the best opportunity to finish school and play baseball,” Prizina said. “Plus it was in my backyard, how could I say no to that? My family definitely had an influence to play here at Nevada because my mom, uncle, and cousins played baseball and softball here so I thought it was an amazing opportunity to follow in their footsteps.”
Josh Prizina, along with his teammates, will be found playing at Don Weir Field at Peccole Park, home of Nevada baseball since 1988.
Four out of the six Puzey family members represented Nevada wearing the infamous number 13.
“Nobody wanted number 13 because it was unlucky,” Jim Puzey said. “At 18, my arrogance took over and I decided I’d wear number 13.”
Brittany and Samantha Puzey both took after their dad, putting the one-three on the back of their Nevada softball jerseys. Samantha Puzey had a knee injury her sophomore year, crediting the injury to the unlucky numbers she wore on her back. After her recovery, she chose number 26, as it was an ode to the family number 13, she just doubled it.
The number 13 is still tied to the Puzey family today. Josh Prizina will be found currently repping number 13 on the Nevada baseball team.
Home means Reno, Nevada
Reno, Nevada is all the Puzey family has known, and wants to continue to know. Jim Puzey planted his roots here in 1964 and has no intention of leaving anytime soon. Jim Puzey attended law school in Sacramento, California and even then, never moved from his home in Reno.
“I would drive down to Sacramento on Monday morning and come back to Reno on Friday,” Jim Puzey said. “We never took the family out of Northern Nevada and I did the commute for three years until I graduated.”
He passed his passion for the biggest little city down onto his kids.
Brittany Puzey got the opportunity to play softball overseas for two seasons in Haarlem, Netherlands.
“It was an amazing opportunity,” Brittany Puzey said. “I got to travel and see a bunch of different countries, but what I realized is that I loved Reno and loved being here.”
After returning home to Nevada, she moved to Las Vegas to attend William S. Boyd of Law at University of Nevada, Las Vegas to get her law degree. After moving all over the state of Nevada, and even internationally, she realized her heart remained in Reno. Why? Family.
“We’re a tight knit family,” Brittany Puzey said. “I’ve been in Northern Nevada my whole life. I’m leaving, I’m getting out of here. But I realized I loved Reno. My husband and I decided this is where we wanted to live and raise a family. When we started to have kids, our kids could be around family.”
After graduation at the University of Nevada, Samantha Puzey remained in Reno and is currently a science teacher and head softball coach at her alma mater, Reno High School.
“Practically my whole family lives in the Reno/Sparks area so there was no reason to leave,” Samantha Puzey said. “Everything I need and more is here. I love all that Reno has to offer and the surrounding areas can provide anything to you that your heart desires but it still feels like a ‘small town.’”
Once a part of the Wolf Pack, Always a part of the Wolf Pack
Growing up going to Nevada games, playing for Nevada, and supporting Nevada as an alum, the Puzey family has been through it all.
“This institution supported my education so I want to do everything to give back,” Jim Puzey said. “My wife and I try to support the university in every way we can. The university has been fantastic for our family.”
“I love how the University of Nevada has grown in softball and baseball,” Kim Puzey said. “It’s cool to go to Nevada now due to all the growth at the University.”
“Nevada athletics has a huge importance on our family,” Brittany Puzey said. “I met my husband because he played football for Nevada and we ran in the same circles and that’s a cool thing we can share with our kids now. It’s not just baseball and softball, it’s a wide variety of sports, and it’s really cool a lot of us have been able to be a part of it.”
“Not only did Nevada athletics put us all in a great position to receive our degrees but it also taught us how to overcome hardships, work hard, and be organized.” Samantha Puzey said. “As a family, we still find a lot of enjoyment in attending any athletic events that we can support the teams and school so that is always something fun we do as a family!”
Samantha Puzey even credits her two nephews and niece to Nevada athletics.
“Nevada athletics has tremendous value,” Prizina said. “There is never any sleeping on Nevada sports because when you play them, you always know there is going to be a fight.”
“With everyone in my family attending Nevada before me, it was a cool feeling stepping into a family tradition,” Swain said.
Jim and Kim Puzey love the silver and blue so much they even have a Nevada themed bathroom, which included the 2004 Sweet Sixteen Nevada basketball team poster hanging on the bathroom wall.
Records Etched into the Nevada History Books
The Puzey family has stamped the family name into the Nevada baseball and softball athletic programs for a lifetime to come. The odds of making a NCAA Division 1 roster is 47:1. Less than 2% of high school athletes go on to play at a Division 1 school. The Puzey family blew those odds out the water.
Over the years at Nevada, starting back in 1981 to present day, the Puzey family has hit for at least for a combined 420 hits, 40 home runs, 307 RBI’s and a .279 batting average.
The Puzey family excelled with number 13 on the back of their Nevada jersey, proving that luck has nothing to do with it, but rather talent and hard work put into the game