2010 Male Player: Steve Walker

Steve Walker

Steve Walker.jpeg

For 20 years, every weekend during the summer was tournament time for Steve Walker as he and his teams competed to qualify for USSSA State, Divisional or World Tournament Berths around the country. This was the norm for this outstanding lead-off batter, which led teams like Brauns or Annie's Army to eight world tournament berths in 12 seasons. He also helped teams like Parksite, Sparta Merchants and Busch to World tournament play.

This fleet-a-foot right center fielder, with a lifetime batting average of .650 credits Roger Waldron for leading him to the slowpitch game and his favorite team Braun's, where he played the majority of his career for his best coach, Annie Braun. With most league locations in Southern Illinois playing without fencing during his younger stages of his playing career, Steve sped to over 200 homeruns with the majority being of the inside-the-park variety, while being selected as an All Star 12 times and a three-time Most Valuable Player.

Steve's most memorable softball experience occurred in 1995 with the Busch team, which took 2nd place in the State Tournament, while being the oldest player on the team and playing with his son-in-law Tony Dugan.

Steve was an all-around high school athlete, as he played football, basketball and baseball all four years at the varsity level and was awarded the Joe Garagiola Award following his senior baseball season. That competitive spirit and continued commitment to his teams, teammates and the sport of softball over his 27-year playing span has now led him to Rockford and the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.

2010 Male Player: Dave Villareal

Dave Villareal

Dave Villareal.jpeg

As a player (first baseman, pitcher and catcher), Dave was known as not only one of the finest in the state of Illinois, but one of the finest nationally. He played for some of the best teams ever assembled in the state, with The Boyz of Plano, The Kings of Bensonville, Sports Page of Arlington Heights and Joe Blacks of Highland Park topping the list of A and AA quality squads.

Dave also played for a number of teams over his 30-year playing span in the St. Charles league. His lifetime .615 batting average and over 1,600 homeruns helped identify him as one of the best.

Dave began his playing career at the B level, but quickly moved up to the A and AA levels, while qualifying and playing in two Men's Major World Series. He also was chosen to a number of All-State tournament teams, while playing for several state championship teams.

Dave's best memories occurred while playing for the Joe Black's team that beat Steele's Sporting Goods out of Ohio, when they were ranked #1 in the country.

Another great memory occurred when he hit 3 homeruns in a Major NIT to help his team in acquiring a berth in the Men's Major World Series in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Of all his accomplishments, Dave says he is most grateful for the opportunities to play against the best players ever to play the game.

2010 Male Player: Jim Rumple

Jim Rumple

Jim Rumple.jpeg

If the next time you go to your favorite OTB facility and you see Jim Rumple on the race card, bet $20 on him to win. This is what his teammates did as they stopped traffic in Clinton, Iowa as his teammates matched him up against every other fast guy in the tournament. Those that bet on Jim were not disappointed, as he was the only undefeated barefoot sprinter in the tournament field.

Speed however, was not Jim's only prowess to fame, as he was a complete player playing flawless defense in the outfield, at shortstop, at second base and at pitcher positions during an abbreviated competitive 18-year career, which has seen him swat 350 career home runs. He achieved All-State honors twice and played on the 1976 USSSA Class B World Championship Forest Hills Lanes team.

Jim believes that the Forest Hills team chemistry was the best he had ever played with as he states, "It was a great group of guys to play with."

Jim's softball playing career began in 1971 when he began playing with the Rockford Rams, followed by Club 51, the State Champion RMA squad and highlighted with a stint with the professional Chicago Storm team in 1977. From 1980 to 1984, Jim participated with RMA/Rockford Stars, which did not finish out of the top 10 every year in world tournament play.

Jim says, "The slowpitch game was made for me. I never played it for any accolades, I just played because I loved the game."