Few softball players have left as indelible a mark on USSSA softball in as short a period of time as Brian Ward.
In barely ten years of USSSA ball, the massive designated hitter and catcher slammed 950 home runs and hit for a .650 average. In the process, he won ten MVP awards, including three Major’s, three NITs and the 1990 World Championship. On 33 occasions, he was named All-Tournament at everything from local tournaments to the most prestigious NITs and World titles.
In 1990 with Sunset Technology and again in 1993 with Bunca Car Wash, Ward captured the USSSA Class AA World title. Competing against Major squads, both those teams also finished fourth in the USSSA World Series each of those years. In fact, from 1990 through 1995, his teams were consistently ranked among the top AA teams nationally and finished either first or second at the USSSA World.
A high school football All-American and All-State shot putter and discus thrower, Ward went on to play football for the University of Illinois, lettering three years and playing in three Bowl games – the Rose Bowl, the Liberty Bowl and the Peach Bowl.
During one summer break, he inquired about playing on a softball team. His previous softball experience had been limited to pick-up 16-inch games back in Darien, Illinois. A woman in the Illini Athletic Department hooked him up with her husband, who managed a team, and he was introduced to 12-inch softball. After graduating college, Ward picked up with the Glass team out of Homewood, Indiana in 1988. In 1990, that team combined with another squad to form the powerhouse Sunset Technology team and the rest is history.
For all of his awesome athleticism, Ward still was honored and excited by the opportunity to play with such future Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame inductees as Kurt Steger and Kurt Dusek. Those two men then convinced him to move up to the AA level, and playing with future Hall of Famers became a habit for Ward.
He is the last starting player from his Sunset Technologies team to be named to either the Michigan USSSA or Illinois USSSA Hall of Fames. Six teammates are enshrined in Michigan’s Hall, and he is the third player to be honored by the Illinois Hall.
Like so many before him, Ward remembers the wins and losses less than the people, saying “My teammates are the most memorable part. I was lucky enough to play on two National Championship teams with two groups of great guys.”
Along with the people he played with, Ward recalls the crowds at some of the tournaments in which he competed.
“When you walked into the stadium, everyone noticed you,” Ward said. “It was really special.”
After winning his second National title, Ward called it a career in order to stay close to home and be with his three sons. He now coaches them and one cannot help but wonder if there is not another Ward in softball’s future. Ward notes that his boys know about his accomplishments and see his trophies and awards.
It’s clear Ward would not mind, saying “I couldn’t think of a better sport to play for an [ex-high school and college] athlete, especially ex-baseball players.”
We could not think of a better player than Brian Ward to welcome into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.