Michael "Flea" Kueker
For over a quarter of a century, Red Bud’s Michael Kueker did something he loved and did it very well. The game of softball gave Kueker a venue to showcase his talents and quench his competitive juices.
The left-handed, line drive-hitting Kueker played either left field or right field for such teams as Horrell’s Distributing, First National Bank of Red Bud and First Bank of Red Bud. He compiled a lifetime .700 batting average and a very impressive .750 on-base percentage. Possessing great speed, Kueker was known for turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples, to accompany numerous inside-the-park home runs throughout his career.
He began his softball playing days in 1976 with veteran Horrell’s Distributing club. This is where he picked up the nickname “Flea,” which he admits he first thought was “Flee” because of his great speed, but was a little surprised after receiving his team jacket and seeing “Flea” stitched into it. That name has stuck with him ever since.
“As his manager, I can say without any reservations that Mike made an immediate impact on the success of our team, hitting regularly above .500 and fielding with grace and accuracy in the outfield,” said Horrell’s manager Larry Ehlers. “Once I explained to Mike his role on the team, the team’s leadoff hitter and centerfielder, I had no role other than consultant because Mike assumed his responsibilities at his position with vigor, knowledge and competency.”
From 1979 through 1992, Kueker was the player/manager of the First National Bank of Red Bud. In 1980, he played in his first Illinois USSSA State Tournament with Mudville Giants and a year later made his initial trip to the Class C Divisional with FNB of Red Bud. The 1986 season saw his club finish 13th place at the Class C Divisional. All told, Kueker teams participated in the Illinois State and Divisional each year from 1982-1992.
“Personal goals are always great for some individuals, but overall I’ve gotten the same satisfaction out of putting. Solid team together and then being able to go out and take that team to the next level,” says Kueker. “There is a great satisfaction in finding that right combination of speed, power and defense that sets your club apart from the rest and then going out and getting results.”
In the 1993 and 1994 campaigns, Kueker played and managed First Bank of Red Bud. In 1993, Kueker and his team finished second place at the Class D Illinois State Tournament and a solid seventh place finish at the Great Lakes Divisional Tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio. In that Divisional, Kueker hit an impressive .778 for the tournament. He then bounced around with a few different Class D teams over the next few years and played for Chester Victor Drugs in 1997-1998 in the 35 & Over Illinois State Tournament. In 1999, with Muehl’s out of Fairview Heights, Kueker helped his team to a second-place finish at the Illinois State 40 & Over Tournament.
All in all, Kueker played in ten Divisional (five in each Class C and D) and 17 State Tournaments (six in each Class C and D, plus five in Class B). He was also named All-League in the USSSA sanctioned Red Bud league 11 straight years (1990-2001).
As for his take on the game of softball in the Illinois USSSA, he admits there have been many changes since he first took the softball field to begin his career.
“The changes I’ve experienced over my years of participating in the USSSA sanctioned softball have been the change in the equipment,” Kueker said. “When I started playing this game, ten runs were a lot and most games were won by one run – 4-3/6-5 type games, as defense played a key role. Nowadays, it comes down to who bats last, there are more high scoring games decided in the seventh inning, with the home run ball playing a big part.”
Kueker continued, “As far as the betterment, I believe also that improving equipment has brought back some of the excitement into the game, therefore it has brought more of the younger crowd back in participating in the game of softball.”
We honor all of Michael’s accomplishments by bestowing the higest accolade for a USSSA player as we say “Member of the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame – Michael, the Flea, Kueker.”