1999 Male Player: Rod Shives

Rod Shives

This hard-hitting shortstop began his USSSA career in 1972 and played until 1996. His teams included the following teams, all from Rockford, Illinois: White Eagles, AXA, Club 51, RMA, Twin Oaks, Forest Hills Lanes, Bullards, Rockford Stars, Miller Transportation, Town Hall and Little Caesar’s.

With a .600 career batting average with 750 home runs, Shives was selected MVP at a 1976 Class B qualifier and a 1984 Class A qualifier. He also claimed All-Tournament honors at the 1976 Class B World Tournament in Tullahoma, Tennessee. His team, Forest Hills Lanes, won that World Championship.

All-State tournament team awards include the 1976 Class B and 1977-1982 Class A. Shives played in every Class A or B State Tournament from 1976-1988 with the sole exception of 1987. He appeared in Class A Regionals from 1977-1982 and again in 1986. Shives also played in Class A Nationals from 1983-1985 and won the Best Defensive Player Award at the Class A Nationals in 1981.

1999 Male Player: Mick Balestri

Mick Balestri

Male 1999_Mike Balestri.jpeg

In 1989, Mick Balestri’s team, Bridgeport Crush, captured the first-ever USSSA Class A 16-inch World Title in Sturdevant, Wisconsin, and in 1995, the Crush also won the last USSSA Class A 16-inch World Title in Joliet, Illinois as he pitched a one-hitter in the title game.

Balestri was named MVP of both of those USSSA Class A tournaments. In between, in 1992, his Luciano’s Gamblers team also won the USSSA Class A 16-inch World Title, and again, Balestri was named MVP.

A pitcher, manager and number three hitter in the lineup was known to drive the ball into the opposite field and use his bat control to execute the hit and run. He would use any 16-inch player in the game to help give his team an advantage over their opponent in a game.

In 1992 at the USSSA Class A World Tournament, Balestri pitched four shutouts for Luciano’s Gamblers, and they captured the World Title that season. In 1993, he was named MVP of the USSSA Men’s 16-Inch Major State Tournament in Orland Park, Illinois. Two times, Balestri was named MVP of a Major 16-inch league and twice he was named MVP of a Class A 16-inch league. His teams have also finished in the top eight teams at four USSSA State Tournaments, and in the top three at two other USSSA 16-inch World Tournaments.

In 1989, at the USSSA Class A 16-inch World Tournament, he was named as the manager of the All-World team. He has played in a total of nine USSSA 16-inch World Tournaments and eight USSSA 16-inch State Tournaments. He describes his greatest thrill in softball as winning the first ever USSSA Class A 16-inch World Tournament and being named MVP of that event.

As a player, he always took pride in his defense and leadership. He has enjoyed being able to play USSSA softball at the different stadiums and complexes all over the Midwest. A back injury in 1994 has limited his playing time, but he remains an active manager.

1999 Male Player: Dirk Androff

Dirk Androff

Dirk Androff was a Decatur, Illinois native and outstanding athlete at Decatur Eisenhower High School, where he earned all-city honors in basketball and football. He attended Eastern Illinois University, where he competed in both sports. After graduation, he had a free agent try-out with the New York Jets.

His fame, however, came in slow pitch softball as he began his career with Belleville Budweiser and the St. Louis Rockets. Androff became a slow pitch household name as he signed his first major division contract in 1998 with Steele’s Silver Bullets. In 1991, he joined Ritch’s Superior/TPS and earned USSSA World Series MVP with the World Champions.

Androff participated on 21 World and National Men’s Major Championship teams, with a lifetime batting average of .733 and 1,814 USSSA home runs at the Major Level. In addition to USSSA World Series MVP in 1991, he was a four-time USSSA All-World team selection and currently remains on the USSSA Men’s All-Time All-World team, which is selected on the basis of World Series All-World selections, World Series MVP Outstanding Defense Player and Hall of Fame recipients.

Without argument, Androff was one of the finest slow pitch players from Illinois ever to play the game.