Player, coach and director – all these describe Champaign’s Carol Stack. Primarily a pitcher with some time at shortstop, Stack was a tough, gritty competitor. It’s a bit tricky compiling statistics on Stack’s softball career, however, because she was more worried about team goals and making central and east central women’s softball more enjoyable and competitive.
In 1980, Stack was a player and coach the first two years for the Alley Cats, a Class B team from Champaign which played at the World Tournament in California that Labor Day. That same year, she played on ZZZ Fasteners, who finished fifth at the co-rec nationals. In 1982, she played and coached Class A team, Pia’s, from Champaign, but retired from coaching after that season. That season was also her first of four years as a USSSA director, during which time she helped start the USSSA women’s softball in the middle of the state amidst many doubts of its endurance.
“Initiating USSSA in central and east central Illinois was by far the most exciting event I remember,” Stack said. “It raised curiosity and interest in this area with the 11-inch ball, but I don’t believe that anyone in this part of the state felt USSSA could survive.”
That area had been dominated by another association, but Carol brought USSSA to central Illinois and it prospered in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“Quite to the contrary, USSSA has emerged to be the dominant softball program in this part of the state,” added Stack.
Playing alongside Hall of Famer Debra Germann and Marion Bell in 1985 and 1986, Coors won back-to-back Class A State Tournaments. Stack was named the Most Valuable Player in both those tournaments, which were held in Rockford. Coors also had successful results at the World Tournament those years, finishing in the top four in both 1985 in Springfield and 1986 in Parma, Ohio.
One tournament sticks out in Stack’s memories, painful as it might be. “I remember taking a line drive off my ankle and watching the extreme swelling process begin to the extent that I could barely put any pressure on my foot,” Stack recalled. Being the only pitcher available and with her team in the loser’s bracket, she iced her ankle for four straight hours until game time.
“It was like dodging bullets all evening on the mound because I couldn’t back off the pitching rubber to set up on defense because of the pressure it put on my ankle,” Stack said.
Stack and USSSA softball were a great fit, as was the USSSA for central Illinois.
“USSSA softball provided an energizing lift to the game and in many ways challenged women in particular to play a faster-paced game with a smaller ball and lower pitched arc,” Stack said. “I can say without a doubt 20 years later, USSSA is the program of preference in this area.”
We formally recognize all of Carol Stack’s accomplishments by welcoming her into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.