2009 Male Player: Randy Torgerson

Randy Torgerson

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Randy began his playing career right out of high school in 1973 with the Prairie Moon team from Rockford, followed by participation in the “Classic A League” at Churchill Park with the competitive team of Ken Becker in 1974.

In 1975, he joined the ranks of another outstanding team, Diamond Bar, before finding success with the Class B World Championship Forest Hills team in 1976. The next season, he participated with Bullards before playing with what Randy says was the best team he ever played on, the Rockfod Stars, from 1978 through the 1982 season.

In 1985, as a member of the RMA squad, Randy was selected to the All-World team as the leadoff batter for the Class B Divisional Champions.

In 1986, he began playing for Rogers Drywall, which finished as state runners-up prior to becoming State Champions in 1987 where he earned an All-Tournament selection and Gold Glove award as the best defensive player while playing right-centerfield.

None of this would have been possible without the USSSA organization. They always put on the best tournaments and they always had quality umpires at all of their events.
— Randy Torgerson

In 1993, he again received the best defensive player award at the B state tournament, while continuing to make the Forest Hills Thursday Night “Challenge Cup” League All-League team for the 11th time.

Randy was always the type of player that set the table for those behind him in the batting order as he did what it took to either move runners or get on base for the big hitters behind him.

He admits that he played with some very terrific players over the years, as he mentioned a few Hall of Fame inductees such as Yeager, Shives and Horn, while also admitting, “None of this would have been possible without the USSSA organization. They always put on the best tournaments and they always had quality umpires at all of their events.”

When it comes to great softball memories Randy says, “It would have to be beating the defending national championship team (Snyder’s) and winning the World

There is no doubt that his strong accurate arm propelled him into the Illinois Hall of Fame.

2009 Male Player: Phil Higgins

Phil Higgins

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Softball for Phil Higgins began with one dynamic swing in a national tournament at Southgate, Michigan in 1970 where we swatted a pinch hit walk off home run to help his team finish the tournament in second place. The lesson learned was to take advantage of every opportunity provided.

Since that time, Phil has taken advantage of every door opened and every opportunity to perform at his best with some of the finest softball teams ever assembled. He played for eight seasons with Copper Hearth of Milwaukee from 1970 through 1977 and also played for Slinger Foundry for a few tournaments in 1974 along with Snyder’s in 1976. During this period, the Copper Hearth captured third place at the 1975 USSSA World Tournament and played for Snyder’s, which captured the World Title in 1976.

In 1983, “Flip” played for Steels, which finished second in the men’s major field to Jerry’s Catering. In 1984 and 1985, he took his talents to Lilly Air Systems where he was an NIT All-Star at Salt Lake.

In 1989, he enjoyed his most exciting softball moment as his Joe Black’s team defeated Steels to capture a USSSA World Series berth to Omaha, where the team finished 5th in World Series play.

In 1993, opportunity again came to Phil’s door as he was asked to participate in a charity softball game with a local radio station against singer Michael Bolton’s celebrity team. On that day he hit three home runs and made a huge impression on Bolton. This led to him participating on Bolton’s team against Michael Jordan’s select group of All-Stars at Chicago’s Comiskey Park.

After that, Phil played with Bolton’s group of charity events for seven seasons from 1994 through the 2000 season. Through this opportunity, he was able to meet many celebrities in sports and entertainment such as Magic Johnson, Evander Hollifield, Garth Brooks, Celine Dion, Tom Sellick, Barry Bonds, Joe Morgan, Regis Philbin, Chris Cheliois and Joe DiMaggio. For Phil, this was a very rewarding time in his life, as he was playing a game he loved and doing it for a charity organization that helped so many.

There is little doubt that with a lifetime batting average of over .650 and a home run count well over 500, Phil deserves to be in the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame, as he not only plays the game, but promotes it through his competitive spirit.

2009 Male Player: Joel Craig

Joel Craig

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Very few baseball/softball careers begin on the flat plains of an Illinois T-ball field and end at a “Mountain Top,” such as Joel Craig’s has done. A career that began under the guidance of his father Don, through his Pony League years, Joel’s plateau climb began in the neighborhood with pick-up game teammates Randy and Dave Kinley at the age of eight.

Joel’s softball climb began after high school, as he was introduced to the slow pitch game at the age of 19, by a fellow T-ball mate, Donnie Fox. Little did Fox or anyone else at the time realize the uphill path that he had provided Joel, as the introduction to competitive softball was just around the bend. The gradual climb had placed Joel among the finest in the area, as he participated in the Stone City VFW in Joliet. How fitting that at this time Stone City teammate John Zola dubbed Joel “The Llama” to aid in his steep assent as Joel joined Ken Adam’s One Hour Cleaners team from Downers Grove in 1989, which captured two Class B state championships, with Joel receiving MVP honors in 1993, under new sponsor Home Run Inn.

In 1990, teammate Brian Ward provided Joel with a map to the “Mountain Top” as he provided Joel the opportunity to play with Louie Calvisi’s Sunset Technologies, the USSSA AA World Series Champions that season, where Joel impressed future Mountain Top manager John Rector. This friendship opened the pathway to Joel’s highest peak, as he joined the Mountain Top team full time in 1998 and became a contributing factor in the team’s Class B world title in 1999, Class A title in 2001 and runner-up titles in 2000 and 2002, along with numerous State and NIT championships.

Following the 2002 season, Joel decided to begin his descent from competitive softball, as he announced his retirement at age 40, but not without a final pause with his old teammates on the Ken’s Beverage team, which he pitched to the 2003 40+ World Series title, while earning Best Defensive Player honors.

A few months later, Joel would suffer a severe back injury that would end his on-field heroics but would not take away his memories and love of the game. With over 800 home runs, a .600 plus batting average, 9 state championships, several world championships, numerous NIT titles, and countless individual awards, it was a climb that only a few have had the opportunity to make and one that few will ever forget.