It is a bit difficult compiling statistics on Kurt Steger’s softball career, especially if you are relying on Steger to remember the details. The problem is, he does not care about the details, or batting averages or even the MVP awards.
What is important to this well-accomplished all-around athlete are the wins and championships he helped create with his teammates. Kurt Steger is first and foremost a team player.
“I don’t care about records,” he said flatly. “I care about helping the team win. I care about the camaraderie and having fun playing. I played with such great people and they made it fun to be there.”
A high school All-State player from Roselle, Steger was a star quarterback and pitcher at the University of Illinois in the mid-70s. He was drafted by the New York Mets, but a knee injury would keep him from ever realizing his dream of playing either professional baseball or football. So Steger turned to softball to satisfy his competitive urges.
Over a 17-year career, the rifle armed third baseman compiled a .630 lifetime average with over a thousand home runs.
Early on, he helped one of John Lilly’s original teams capture the USSSA Class B State Title in 1978. The next year, he began playing with a group of friends on ZZZ Fasteners out of Champaign. Steger was tournament MVP in 1982 when they exploded out of the loser’s bracket to win the State Class A Title.
Steger moved to the power house Lilly Air team in 1983, starting out on the bench. He was soon a started at third, solidifying an infield that consisted of Al Van Gampler at shortstop, Ron Olesiak at second and Earl “T-Bird” Funderberg and Ken Parker at first.
“His arm was as strong as any I’ve seen,” Joe Black pitcher/manager Tom Starck said.
Steger reminisced about the athletic prowess of the team.
“We were all great athletes,” he said. “We used to beat the big guys, the home run hitters, because we played defense and got base hits.”
The Lilly team would make its mark at the highest levels of softball over the next three years, and one of Steger’s most satisfying softball memories was created during that period – Lilly Air beating Howards Furniture 28-17 in a loser’s bracket game of the 1985 USSSA World Series.
“The best time I ever had in softball was with Lilly,” Steger said.
Following the 1986 season, Steger moved to a team in Kalamazoo, Michigan sponsored by Sunset Technologies. That team became the powerhouse Bunca Car Wash in 1987. Through it all, Steger put the needs of the team first and foremost.
“We were not individuals on the softball field,” he said. “We played as a group of guys making things happen.”
By the end of the 90s, Steger was looking to retire from ultra-competitive softball. But try as he might, when the fourth of July rolled around, he inevitably found himself in Wilson Park in Milwaukee playing in the USSSA NIT against the big boys. Finally, after the 1993 season, Steger did leave AA ball. The following season, he helped his team finish second at the USSSA Men’s 35 & Over World in Detroit.
“It couldn’t have been any better,” Steger said. “It was a great honor to play with the people I did. My teammates, coaches and sponsors. They were just great people to play with and socialize with.”