2016 Hall of Fame Inductees
Female Player Category
Remembering the journey is important to Casey Clutch, and staying the course enabled her to keep competing in Women's Fastpitch at the elite level for 11 seasons for the Indiana Slammers (inducted into the 2015 Illinois USSSA Hall of Honor).
Casey joined the Slammers in 2003 after her sophomore year of college as she wanted to feel the fun of playing summer ball again. She quickly became a leader of the team and eventually mentored the younger pitchers along the way. From 2007-2013, the Slammers had a record of 105-12 in USSSA tournaments and Casey's USSSA pitching record was 26-0, with a 1.03 ERA with 14 shutouts in 42 appearances. Her overall record for those same 7 years was 43-2, with a 1.07 ERA with 19 shutouts in 75 appearances.
In USSSA play, Casey is a five-time Women's Illinois State Champion (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), three-time Women's World Series Champion (2008, 2009, 2011) and a 2012 World Series runner-up. She also received numerous USSSA individual awards, including 2012 Illinois State Tournament MVP, 2011 World Series All-Tournament Team, 2009 World Series Outstanding Pitcher and 2009 Illinois State Tournament Team.
At 13, Casey started playing travel ball and was impressed with the pitchers at that level of play, including the ones she had caught that summer. She decided she wanted to learn how to pitch so her high school team could be competitive throughout her career, and she felt she would have more impact on the mound versus behind the plate. She and her dad, John, took their gloves down that journey together and sought pitching instructors and clinic opportunities to learn the craft. Casey learned quickly and handled half of the varsity pitching load her freshman year at Frankton High School in Indiana. In her junior year, she led the team to their first ever State Championship in 2000 (Class 1A).
In 2001, she was named Indy Star Metro North Softball Player of the Year with a high school career record of 64-16, 0.35 ERA, 44 shutouts, 900 K's, 10 no-hitters and 3 perfect games, along with a .431 batting average.
Casey's career continued as a 4-year starting D-1 pitcher at the University of Evansville with the team winning the 202 Missouri Valley Conference tournament and a trip to the NCAA regionals. In UE history, Casey is 4th in wins with 47, 3rd in shutouts with 16 and 4th in saves with 5. Casey was a two-time NFCA All-American Scholar Athlete and named to the 2004 MVC All-Tournament Team.
In 2002, she was selected at an open tryout to attend the USA Women's National Team Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. Pitching for and against Olympic players was an amazing experience and a spectacular opportunity.
Casey graduated cum laude in 2005 with a BS in exercise science from UE and graduated summa cum laude in 2007 with a MS in kinesiology from Texas Women's University with an emphasis in coaching. She is a 4-star NFCA Master Coach.
Even though she is retired from playing, Casey continues to be involved in softball by providing softball instruction through her business Clutch Athletic Performance, Inc.
Casey lives in Fishers, IN with her husband Eddie Creakbaum and their two sons Eli (5) and Alex (1).
Male Player Category
Mike began his softball playing career with Lannings of Beloit in 1983. He played for Ken Lanning for 5 seasons, which saw the team finish 2nd in the Wisconsin State Tournament. Softball success seemed to follow him in his early years, as he played on the Class “A" State Championship team, Chipper’s Pub and was awarded the Golden Glove for his efforts; “Spence” says this was his most favorite team. The Chippers team spring boarded him to play with other talented squads like: Ingrassia, Ralston-McLaren, Pope Transport, Shockers, PDR and Wood Law, and presently with Team Arkansas.
The talented shortstop that played his high school ball at Hononegah in Rockton has accumulated an outstanding .730 lifetime batting average, while swatting over 700 homeruns. His best season by far was in 1991, when he posted an unequaled .820 BA.
With all these years of experience, Mike says his most memorable moment was when he was up to bat and could hear a guy saying “Watch This Guy!” and heard his daughter reply, “That’s My Dad!”
“Spence” has mentored many kids and younger players who reach out to him for advice and hopes he has improved their talents, behaviors and created a positive environment for growth.
Funny moments also occur over the years and his most memorable was watching Dennis Muth do a face plant into the baseline after rounding 1st base, while attempting to take 2nd.
His favorite coaches were Harrison Jones and Mike Carroll, while he sites some of the best players to share a diamond with are Jim Cushing, Brad Lindmark, Steve Stull, Brian Cunningham, Mike and Dave Carroll, and Don Klarner.
He states that if he has any regrets, it is not giving more respect to opposing players and he wishes he would have talked more to them over the years.
In his final statement, he said that he has been blessed and provided with a talent to play the game of softball. USSSA has provided the avenue to achievement and is most appreciative of his selection to the Hall of Fame.
Male Player Category
Kevin began playing USSSA softball in 1979 and has continued to enjoy the game to this day. The 55-year-old has maintained his love of the game over the years, due to finding success at the competitive level of play and through the making of lifelong friendships.
The outstanding first baseman boasts an impressive .670 career batting average and has hit over 650 dingers, while receiving countless All-Tournament and MVP honors. His participation with RMA, Franks Sports Page, and Mary’s Place has provided him with additional team success stories. All-Tournament recognition in Divisional Class B tournament play at Milwaukee, Steeles Sports Invitational and Little Caesar’s Qualifier has put Kevin in a class of his own.
He has played in state and divisional tournaments from 1981 through 2000 and was a member of the 1985 Class B Divisional Championship team of RMA. He was also a member of 2 state championship squads.
Kevin recalls that his most memorable softball moment was when he hit a 3 run home run in the 6th inning to put RMA up 4, after they intentionally walked Brian Benning in front of him. His timely blast aided the team to the divisional tourney game victory 14 to 13!
Male Player Category
Tim was nicknamed “Pig Pen” appropriately by fellow teammate Jim Yeager. Even though the story of how he acquired this name is not exactly clear, it has stuck throughout his playing career.
Tim began playing the game in 1975 right out of Harlem High School and remains on the field today, while still playing in the 50-and-over classification. The 59-year-old third baseman/pitcher began play with Schlichting Excavating and soon became noticed as one of their leading hitters, and recognized with best offensive player accolades during Class “A” N.I.T. play in Memphis and Milwaukee.
He was also a contributing team member of the 1976 Class B World Championship team, Forest Hills Lanes, at the ripe old age of 19 where he joins fellow Hall of Famers: Clancy Horn, Jim Rumple, LT Graham , Rod Shives, Ken Franzen, Don Cox and Randy Torgerson.
He boasts an impressive .585 life-time batting average, while swatting over 650 home runs in USSSA play.
Also, Tim has coached his daughter’s Slow Pitch team and was the Women’s State Director for 4 years. Tim states, “I have been to so many places due to great sponsors and the outstanding USSSA program over the years as a player. That is why I coach and sponsor, so to give back to the program and so my daughter and her teammates get the same opportunities that I did.”
Male Player Category
Jimmy Phad had been involved with softball for over 40 years, starting with tournaments on the United States Marine Corps National team. Jimmy has been able to see all phases of USSSA softball play from the beginning of his career with his hometown team, "Lost Acres" in 1981 and with longtime C USSSA Team "The Outsiders" winning 2 C State Titles and multiple NITs, all with a tremendous group of teammates.
Jim played B with the Easton group. Getting some great opportunities with his Rope Club team travel at the C and then B level, that had what became some of the most elite players from Illinois. He then joined his 2nd softball family of Full Tilt softball. More C State Championships were won, but more importantly a softball family.
With USSSA and GSL combining, Jim was on the No Ego/Next team that won the Nationals in Blaine, MN as well as the GSL World Series.
Jim began as an outfileder, then moved into 3rd base and finally landed in his desired home of the pitcher's mound. There he kept playing with his trademark curve and screwball until this year at the National level, finishing 9th pitching in the C worlds at the age of 60 with his ISS family.
Along the way, Jim has won some incredible tournaments including many 35+ and 40+ with one of his favorites being the 40+ USSSA World Series in 2010 in Arizona. There he earned the MVP award.
He always achieved a lifetime batting average in the .650 area with his trademark right filed line hits. But where the fun really began was 12 years ago with his Full Tilt family, that included his son Michael when he was 18 years old. After having 3 incredible daughters, the last child was a boy that Jim was able to watch grow and excel as a centerfielder, and then a middle infielder.
USSSA has given him the ability to travel to incredible venues with amazing players. Lifetime friends and family brought him joy and continue to give him incredible fun with his 50+ and 55+ teams that roam the country to play this amazing game.
Dave "Cat" Catalani
Dave Catalani’s managerial journey began in the 1970’s with Highland Liquors and was competitively fueled in 1985 with the creation of Shortley’s Corner, which won the highly competitive Stone City League over Class “A” Burla Construction. This accomplishment drew attention to the team and its individual players.
In 1999, one of the finest teams in Illinois USSSA play was created in Ken’s Beverage Inc. (KBI). This team won numerous state and national tournaments, 15 Joliet city tournaments and 2 world titles in the 40 & Over in 2002 and 2014. In addition, the team had several other top 10 finishes during world tournament play. This included Class B, C, D and 40 & Over and 50 & Over divisions over the years.
Cat boasts that his success could be attributed to the recruitment of 28 Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame players that have played for him over the recent years. A line-up of hall of famers can make anyone look good, he admits. He also credits his 26 year affiliation with team sponsor Ken Reimer, a 2011 HOF inductee in the sponsor category, for making this great journey possible.
Dave is honored to become a member of the 2016 Illinois Hall of Fame and promises that the journey will continue as long as he still cares about winning, while not letting a non- hustling umpire off the hook, and still has the desire to hang out with the team instead of staying in his room reading a book.
We know that it may be a while before Cat reads a best seller, and welcome him to the Hall of Fame!
Like many umpires, Thornton began umpiring when his playing days were over. Thornton participated with a 16” team named the Crusaders at Rosenbloom Park under the direction of Leonard McKinnon and USSSA program director Les Duncan. He retired and began umpiring 16” softball. After a few years, he began umpiring Fastpitch softball in Crete, Illinois, under the direction of Frank Walz and at Rockford for USSSA State director Brenda Paulson.
Thornton has recorded working over 48 Fastpitch State Tournaments, and the still active 67-year-old has also worked 14 USSSA World Series events and 2 NITs in classifications ranging from 10-and-under through Women’s. He has also served the USSSA as a Tournament Umpire-in- Chief.
He has also been instrumental in providing and training young umpire talent for the USSSA program. He joined forces with Keith Tillman and HOF Umpire Tom Seddon in accomplishing this feat.
Thornton says this is the “most wonderful game there is. I’ve seen kids of all ages out there enjoying themselves. Leaves you with a smile on your face knowing you gave them 100%.”
He states that his most exciting umpire accomplishment was being chosen to do the final game of the Women’s World Series at Rockford. He has also been awarded the Illinois Umpire of the Year Award, named for his fellow partner Tom Seddon. The Tom Seddon Award is the most prestigious award for an Illinois umpire.
Thornton has gained another prestigious award, as he entered the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame!
Pioneer Player Category
Mark, nicknamed “Ralph” participated with the Shamrocks from 1970 thru 1984. The first baseman swatted numerous homeruns, while posting an outstanding .650 career batting average.
He was a key member of one of the finest softball teams ever to play the game in southern Illinois. The Shamrocks were a very unselfish team that didn’t keep statistics and only kept a scorebook when required to do so.
Mark was a huge part of the Shamrock team that was instrumental in bringing USSSA to Red Bud so many years ago. He recalls that the team’s participation in the USSSA was the best and we always competed very well, while having a terrific time playing together.
Longevity Player Category
Terry “Tater” Thies was one of the most consistent players to ever take to the ball fields of Southern Illinois. Thies was known for his solid defense and line drive hitting. Predominately a second baseman, Thies could play every infield position plus pitch with excellence. At bat “Tater” continually hit line drives even when making an out.
Terry played for some of the most dominate teams in Southern Illinois including Kay’s Bait & Tackle, Moore and Wittenborns, Mary’s Tavern, Percy Hardware and Victor Drugs. Thies played well into his fifties all across the country while participating in the Masters program. His teams won so many league championships that he can’t recall all of them.
Thies feels fortunate to have played in an era when defense was as important as offense. He also relishes the fact that he was able to play on the same team with five of his brothers, two brothers in law, and a couple cousins.
Terry amassed a .650 lifetime batting average and was named to the All- State Tournament team four times while playing three different positions. He was also selected MVP of the 1995 Masters State Tournament.
Longevity Player Category
Very few people are recognized for their contribution to the sport of softball as Willie has been - by having the Illinois USSSA recognize him with “Willie Mason Day”!
On June 9th, 2011, he was recognized for his 27 years of contribution to the sport and upon his retirement from USSSA play.
During his 27 years with the USSSA program, he competed with Riesling Motors, Erickson Chiro, Williams Construction, and Little Red School House. While playing the majority of his games at shortstop, Willie accumulated an impressive batting average of over .500 and swatted over 70 home runs. One of his most outstanding seasons with the Little Red School House team was his batting .626, while it should be noted his best years were much earlier in his career.
At his retirement recognition event, Willie stated, “I just want one at bat and one more inning in the field.” That is what he received prior to putting away his glove and spikes for good.
Some of the most memorable moments from Willie’s career are when he was playing in the state tournament at Rockford and someone on the other team said, “Come in, he’s a slap hitter.” On the next pitch, he lined the ball off the outfield fence for a triple. Following that, he acquired the nickname “Slappy”.
Willie was also known for hitting the Ferris wheel during Railroad Days in West Chicago. Teammate Dennis McSteen commented, “I thought he was going to kill some kid on the ride.”
As far as his enjoyment in the USSSA program, Willie said, “In my opinion, the USSSA organization from umpires, teams and fields are a well- run machine and I have enjoyed every year that I was a part of it!”