Teams honor those who have given most
Oklahoma City, OK---For the 14 teams arriving in Oklahoma City on Thursday, playing in the ASA Hooters Championship Series isn’t just for bragging rights. For several it is the ability to reach the pinnacle of their sport, or an opportunity to play in the nation’s best stadium, but for many it’s to honor that special individual who has made an impact in their softball career and more importantly their lives.
Team Worth/Vanguard of Hollister, CA, who is composed of several veteran slow pitch players, captured the Men’s Class D West National Championship in Salem, OR, to earn their trip to Oklahoma City and into the Hooters Championship Series.
This team dedicated the 2004 season to memory of their dear friend Chris Ortiz who passed away in a plane crash leaving a softball tournament in Lake Tahoe in 1994. The veterans know how much it would have meant to Chris to be part of this team competing in Oklahoma City at the Hooters Championship Series so many want to win this especially for him.
“Chris was our coach, great friend and he had dreamed of someday winning a World Championship,” said team manager Mike Nicholls. “So we are gong to try and win this one for him.”
Although the Women’s Class D East National Champions, Stingers of Lexington, KY will travel to Oklahoma City without team manager Jim Ulanday, he will certainly be on the minds of his 14 players.
Jim has been faced with one of the most challenging things of his life after his father suffered a debilitating stroke earlier this year. Since the stroke, he has devoted his entire life to caring for his father, who is now wheelchair bound and needs assistance performing all activities of daily living. Despite the unfortunate circumstances the Ulanday family has suffered, Jim has still continued to support the Stingers.
“Even though he can’t travel with us, he is always there to help in anything we need,” said designated hitter Tina Grider. “He deserves a large amount of gratitude and recognition for his dedication to this team and for his giving spirit to his family. He will certainly be on the minds of the Stinger players while we are in Oklahoma City.””
Darren Elliott, manager of the ECI (Elliott Communications Incorporated) squad that won the Women’s Class D West National Championship, has been around softball fields for as long as he can remember. Son of former women’s softball coach Bill Elliott, Darren can remember his father coaching for many years and the type of excitement it brought to his life.
“He probably began coaching when I was around 10 years old,” Darren said. “As I got older and my interests went from playing in the dirt to actually enjoying the game, it was a way for my dad and me to become closer.”
Bonding through several innings on the field and many long conversations in the car, Bill taught Darren not only about the game but more importantly, about life.
“Some of our best talks were on the way to the ballpark or at the hotels we stayed in when we were out of town at tournaments,” Darren said. “He taught me about softball, how to treat other people and how to put the world into perspective.”
Sadly, in 1993 Bill suddenly passed away of a heart attack at age 55. Stunned by the news, the next year the team he led for so many years wore his name on a black arm band in a show of support for their fallen leader. This gesture was something that meant the world to the Elliott family.
One player in particular that can remember wearing one of those arm bands will be in Oklahoma City this weekend. Not as a coach or fan, but as a player. ECI pitcher Terri Moore, 46, is one of the last players to be coached by Bill Elliott and continues to enjoy the game just like her younger teammates.
“One of the reasons I still coach is because of Terri and all she has done for me,” Darren said. “She really meant a lot to my dad as a player. She is still the only one playing from that original team from when my dad passed away.”
Darren can remember back in the days when his father led the team and one of his biggest concerns was finding a sponsor to support their efforts. The many hours spent fundraising almost took the fun out of the game, but it was always Terri or Bill who would make sure the money was there so the team could play ball.
So now as head coach, team manager and team sponsor, Darren feels strongly about his need to give back to what has given so much to him.
“It’s something my father would have done if he could have,” Darren said. “It is a way to thank Terri and all the girls who play and give their heart and soul to this team and me. I can’t think of another person who deserves this championship as much as Terri Moore. And during the Hooters Championship Series in Oklahoma, I know we will both be thanking each other and dad because somewhere he will be watching and cheering as loud as anyone.”
So when the 14-teams take the field on Thursday in Oklahoma City for competition each will have their reasons for being there, but for some it will be much more than just bragging rights.
For complete coverage of the 2004 ASA Hooters Championship Series visit www.hooterscs.com. You can find features, schedules, scores and much more.
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