2006 Male Player: John Kramer

John Kramer

Male 2006_John Kramer.jpeg

In his 23-year career – 21 of those in the USSSA – Mokena’s John Kramer has earned many personal awards and played on some of the top teams in the state.

Kramer, a top notch second baseman has worn the uniform for such great teams as Snap-On, DC All-Stars, Ken’s Beverage and Ken Adams and lists himself as semi-retired. A singles hitter with situational power, Kramer amassed a .650 career batting average and pounded out 400 lifetime home runs.

While he has many individual accomplishments to his credit, it was a team moment that the man nicknamed “Stumpy” lists as most exciting in his USSSA career.

“Winning the USSSA Class AA/A NIT in Springfield, Ohio in 1996 with Belcher Construction was awesome,” Kramer said. “We took a victory lap around the stadium throwing our caps and jerseys into the stands.”

In the 1997 Open State Championship, Kramer was named All-Tournament playing for Joe Black in what would be the first of 12 State Championship teams he would play for. Two years later, while playing for Snap-On, he and his teammates captured the 1999 Class B State and 35 & Over State Championships. In both tournaments, he was named to the All-Tournament team for his outstanding all-around play.

Kramer considers winning the Great Lakes B National Tournament in Cincinnati and being named All-Tournament that same season his greatest softball thrill during his USSSA career.

Softball allowed me the opportunity to play high-level ball after my college baseball career. Illinois USSSA has given me my greatest softball thrills and allowed me to meet many great people.
— John Kramer

In 2001 and 2002, Kramer was a member of DC All-Stars who captured Tavern State Championships back-to-back in Champaign. He was named to the All-Tournament team that first year.

In the 2003 season, he helped Ken Adams win three NITs and the Class B Title. Kramer and his Ken Adams team also won another Class B Title the next year. That year he also won his seconds straight 40 & Over Open State Championship with Ken’s Beverage.

As far as playing USSSA softball, Kramer says it gave him the chance to keep his competitive juices flowing after his college days and helped him strike up friendships.

“Softball allowed me the opportunity to play high-level ball after my college baseball career,” Kramer said. “Illinois USSSA has given me my greatest softball thrills and allowed me to meet many great people.”

Kramer and his Ken Adams mates accomplished quite a feat by finishing runner-up in the 2004 Class B World Tournament in Euless, Texas.

As far as his thoughts on the state of the USSSA in Illinois, Kramer would like to change one aspect of the game.

“[The USSSA] needs to give umpires more authority,” states Kramer. “There needs to be zero tolerance because there has been too much arguing in the past five to ten years.”

We honor a player who has shown exceptional skill and loyalty for USSSA softball by welcoming John Kramer to the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.

2006 Male Player: Mark Austin

Mark Austin

For more than two decades of USSSA softball, Belvidere’s Mark Austin patrolled the right fields in many ball parks and complexes during the summer months. He was playing fast pitch softball before some of his friends persuaded him to switch gears.

“Some of the guys I went to high school with coaxed me to switch over to slow pitch,” remembered Austin.

Austin has suited up for such teams as the Rockford Stars, Park Town Hall and Rogers Drywall in his 22 years on the diamond. A pull-hitter, he batted for a .525 average in his career and clubbed an amazing 750 round-trippers.

“He was a big guy and a power hitter, but he was also a smart hitter,” Park Town Hall manager Jerry Fiordelisi said. “He had more speed for a big guy than people realized. When he got on base he could move and was pretty fast. He was a very good player.”

In both the 1976 and 1977 Class A State Tournaments, he was named to the All-Tournament team with the Rockford Stars. The Stars finished a respectable fourth place at the 1978 Class A National Tournament.

The 1981 season was a very special season for Austin and his Park Town All teammates. Playing alongside pitcher John Wood, an Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Inductee, Park Town Hall won the Class B Divisional in Milwaukee with Austin having a fine all-around tournament culminating in his being named to the All-Tournament team. The team survived the championship game despite playing in the mud in a rain-bathed tournament. Later that day, he followed a solid divisional play by being named the Most Valuable Player.

“We weren’t the most talented team, but the chemistry was very, very good,” Austin said of the Park Town Hall squad. “We played Tuesdays and Thursdays in Rockford; we just all played well together.”

In 1984, Park Town Hall finished with a fourth-place finish at Class B Divisional. Seven years later Austin came up big again. He helped lead Rogers Drywall to the 1991 Class B State Championship. Austin was rock solid at the plate and in the field, helping him get named to the All-Tournament team and voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Austin felt that USSSA softball gave him a chance to play at a high level and create lasting relationships.

“[USSSA softball] had the best competition,” Austin said. “It was a great way to meet people and a chance to see various parts of our country.”

With his induction into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame, we honor Austin’s great career.