Looking back in time, USSSA has come a long way in securing itself as one of the most prestigious and well-known slow-pitch soft¬ball organizations in the United States. Founded in the spring of 1968, USSSA provided amateur athletes with an avenue to play the sport they love and also laid the foundation for an organization that would grow exponentially in years to come. In 1979, USSSA hosted its first Hall of Fame induction ceremony though it wasn’t until 1984 that the Hall of Fame Museum was born. Headquartered in Petersburg, Virginia, the Hall of Fame Museum was introduced to the world and the association continued to blossom.
In 1998, Don DeDonatis was named the new CEO and during his first few years, he created change that would help the organization spread its wings across the country. He implemented the reloca¬tion of USSSA’s Hall of Fame to Osceola County Heritage Park in Florida. The move wasn’t complete until 2005, but when it was done, they couldn’t have asked for a better turn out.
The move and current setup was orches¬trated by Robert Still under the watchful eye of DeDonatis.
Currently, USSSA governs 13 amateur sports and over the past 40 years has grown from a couple thousand to over 3.7 million participants. This organiza¬tion would not be where it is today without the growing sponsorship of some great organizations as well as the directors, coaches, and players who manage and play the sports they love.
Today, the museum is home to some of USSSA’s most prominent artifacts and memorabilia related to its proud history and the evolution of softball and it’s other affiliated sports. This year, USSSA will be hosting the 45th annual National Meeting from November 11th to 17th at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. Following the National Meeting is the Hall of Fame induction ceremony where a group of talented inductees will be recognized for their tremendous achievements and contributions to USSSA throughout the years. Here is a list of our inductees:
Billy started playing softball in 1981 and played his first USSSA Softball tourna¬ment in 1983. In 1992, he was part of Dan Smith’s AA team and played in his first Major World Series, an experience that he will never forget. In 2002, Billy pitched for Chase Reece Roosters who won the USSSA Men’s Major World Series Championship and his ERA during the series was 8 runs per game. His mental toughness shined through and the victory was ever-so sweet. In 2007, Billy remembers winning against Resmondo at the Smoky’s with KME, only their 3rd loss of the year! Just last year, he pitched for Combat Laservision and remembers holding GTL (ranked 2nd in the USA) to only 2 runs. They came out of the game victorious.
This year, Billy’s team won the Men’s Major World Series for the second time, which was such a major accomplish¬ment. “I felt all year long that our team, Laservision/Easton/Annihilation, had a chance to win the World Series, but throughout the season we were falling short at the tournaments we attended. When we won, it was amazing and it didn’t matter that I wasn’t on the field for the last pitch. What mattered was that our team never stopped reaching for our goal and I got to share the moment with my wife, Cheryl. This was the 21st Men’s Major World Series that I played in.” A proud moment it was, Billy has made tremendous contributions to the game.
Charles Wright was known in the softball world as the “Georgia Peach”. He just loved the game. Some of his greatest soft¬ball accomplishments include; in 1986, he broke the world record hitting 503 home runs in one season and that same year he was the National Softball player of the year. In 1993, he was selected as the player of the year for both Softball USA and Slow-Pitch News. Throughout his years of playing softball, Charles won 33 All-World Series Championships, 4 of which he was selected the MVP. Today, he is listed as the 5th best softball player of all time.
Charles’ wife, Tammy, reminisces on his softball days, “Charles truly enjoyed talking about sports and reminiscing about the good old days, but it was never about his accomplishments. He was very humble when it came to talking about his athletic abilities.” Tammy adds, “Charles not only impacted his generation, but many generations to come. At his funeral, I had fathers that played ball with Charles introduce me to their sons who had also played with him. They talked about how he was a man of integrity, compassion and with such a selfless heart. His legacy will live on for years in the hearts and lives of many generations of ball players.”
Mike Shenk is a 2-time USSSA Major World Series Champion, a 4-time All-World Series Selection, the 1998 World Series MVP and now, a USSSA Hall of Fame member. A third basemen who has been affiliated with the asso-ciation since 1990, Mike remembers the World Series of 1998 like it was yesterday. “I was playing for TPS and we were told on Saturday that we were part of the leaders bracket playing Sunday morning,” he reminisces, “We headed out to a 7am batting practice for an 8am game and after playing five games in a row, we didn’t step off of that field until 9 at night. We came back and became the 1998 World Series Champions, winning the final game on a walk off walk. I’ll never forget it.” With an impressive career behind him, Mike has made his mark on USSSA history.
Bob Holland, USSSA’s Atlantic Coast Vice President for 30 years running, re-iterates Mike’s accomplishments and athletic talents, “Mike Shenk was the best slow pitch player to come out of Pennsylvania.” Bob adds, “I had the plea¬sure to watch him grow as a young raw talent, to one of the best that slow pitch has seen in his era.” When asked what it means to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Mike said “This means every¬thing to me. I was fortunate enough to play for some of the best teams to ever play. Throughout my career, the goal was to be there and give 110% to my team. That’s why it’s hard to go into the Hall of Fame, because without my team this wouldn’t be possible.” His advice to young and aspiring baseball and softball players, “You can never take enough batting practice and always be prepared and there for your teammates.”
Jeff began playing softball in 1976 and three years later, was running his own team; Hague Softball. By 1993, he and his team were playing at the AA level, which at the time was the highest amateur level in USSSA. Jeff’s team won 6 USSSA Championships from 1991 to 2003, two of which were USSSA Major World Series Championships, in 1995 and 2003. They were the first and only non-major team to ever win a major world series.
Over the past 20 years, there have been more than 25 major championships won by teams sponsored and/or based out of the Central Ohio area. Jeff adds, “It means a lot to be the first person from Columbus, Ohio to be inducted into the USSSA Hall of Fame.” Currently, Jeff owns and operates a water treatment business (Hague Water Conditioning), in Groveport, Ohio.
Mary Crechiolo Papiersky
Mary was part of Women’s Class A Softball from 1976 to 1989. She was a part of 3 world championship teams; the Stingers in 1980 and Little Caesars in 1983 and 1984. Mary remembers winning each world championship; they were exciting and memorable accom¬plishments for a number of reasons. The 1980 championship was a dream come true and in 1983, she remembers her team coming back to win 6 games in a row on the last day of play, to win the tournament. In 1984, she played in Southgate, Michigan in front of her family and friends; this was so impor¬tant to her and a day that she will never forget. In 1991, Mary was inducted into the Michigan USSSA Hall of Fame and she was also part of the 1980’s Team of the Decade.
“I would like to thank my family, friends, teammates and coaches for all of their support, friendships and life-long memo¬ries,” Mary said. She also adds, “Thank you to Don DeDonatis and USSSA for giving so many of us an opportunity to play the great game of softball at such a competitive level.” Long time fellow teammate and friend, Kim Schwartz- Alexander, will be speaking on behalf of Mary at the induction ceremony.
Rick has been an integral part of USSSA for many years. In 1994, he received the Virginia USSSA Director Achievement Award and in 2002 he was named the National USSSA Baseball Director of the Year. In 2009 he was inducted into the USSSA Virginia Hall Of Fame and throughout his career with the asso¬ciation, he played in numerous soft¬ball leagues and tournaments, church softball leagues and tournaments, directed softball and baseball tourna¬ments and managed successful soft¬ball teams. Since Rick has taken over as State Director of Baseball in Virginia, they have experienced major growth. In 2000, there were six tournaments with 33 teams participating and in 2012 there were 520 tournaments with 3,745 teams involved. Bob Holland adds, “Rick is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He is an outstanding director and more importantly, an outstanding person.”
Rick is also known for starting up a USSSA sanctioned Instructional League for 4 to 6 year olds in his community and expanded these leagues throughout communities within Virginia. He and his wife have attended every National Convention since 1986 and are looking forward to continuing the tradition. Rick adds, “My proudest achievement is that I have never played, managed, or directed any other sport association other than USSSA,” and what a career it’s been. His family has even played a part in helping to run tour¬naments, whether it’s his wife working concessions, selling t-shirts or keeping stats or his son working as a ball-chaser or in the score box announcing games.
As Softball Promotions Manager for Mizuno, Larry partners closely with USSSA within the softball and fast-pitch markets. He has been working with the organization for a number of years and was elected to initiate a fast-pitch foot¬print for USSSA within the market. Larry also participated in the development of Comfort Lite Protective Equipment, the first protective catcher’s gear that was specifically designed and created for the female athlete. He also worked on the development of female specific batters helmets and has sponsored and worked with the Women’s Professional Softball League since it’s creation. Larry assisted with the development of the USA Olympic Team batter helmets in 2000, 2004 and 2008 and worked with the development of the Hollywood Impact Base used by Parks and Recreation departments throughout the country. Larry pitched fast-pitch competitively until the age of 50 and has won the USSSA Achievement Award.
When asked how it feels to be a USSSA Hall of Fame inductee, Larry adds, “It is an incredible honor and truly humbling to be considered, and then nominated and chosen. When you look at the Hall of Fame, you look at players and statis¬tics so it’s humbling to be an inductee since I’ve dedicated my career to help players and organizations achieve their goals.” Larry also tells us that it makes him happy to be a part of USSSA and help give advice and direct efforts towards the sport. “For me, it’s really been the mindset of getting out of life, what you can help others achieve too.”
Currently the Assistant General Manager of the USSSA Florida Pride, Gordon Glennie has been involved with USSSA since 1986. He has played an inte¬gral role in implementing the fast-pitch program within the organization, a feat he will never forget. “It was interesting because up until that point, USSSA was the United States Slow Pitch Softball Association, they really didn’t have fast-pitch. We found some loopholes in the rule book and were able to implement fast-pitch, it was great.”
After implementing fast-pitch, it’s taken off like a rocket. At first, there were 11 teams in the Michigan program and today there are about 130 teams in the state tournament. Gordon is now part of USSSA Pride fast pitch team as the Assistant General Manager. In order to be in this position, he gave up his role as the VP of Fast-Pitch within USSSA and it has been an exciting time watching them grow. Gordon adds, “Since then, we’ve taken the USSSA Pride and have formed some junior teams as well, it’s great to see 10+ kids at every game worship our players, they are idols to these kids.” On being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Gordon says, “It’s an awesome feeling; a reward for hard work and perseverance, it’s a very select group of people and I consider this a prestigious honor.”
USSSA is excited and thrilled to host its 45th Annual National Meeting and is looking forward to a wonderful week in Temecula, California. Come and be a part of this spectacular event and watch as our new USSSA honorees are inducted into the Hall of Fame. We’re excited to see you there!
by Kaylen Shimoda
About USSSA Florida Pride:
The USSSA Florida Pride is a professional franchise in the National Pro Fastpitch League that is owned and operated by USSSA. The amateur organization of USSSA has multi-sport coverage and encompasses teams and players from the United States and abroad.
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Nashville, TN. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names of Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women’s fastpitch softball since 2002.
The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), headquartered in Osceola County, Florida, USSSA is the World’s Largest Multi-sport Athletic Organization. Founded in 1968, USSSA has grown to over 3.7 million participants, competing in 13 nationally sanctioned sports including Baseball, Fastpitch, Slow Pitch, Karate, Basketball, Soccer and more! For more information on USSSA and to register your team visit USSSA.com. Also be sure to visit USSSAToday.com for the latest USSSA News!