2012 Male Player: Jeff Ott

Jeff Ott

Jeff Ott.jpeg

Jeff has never been one that would seek the spotlight, but always wanted to be the one with the bat in his hands with the game on the line. He loves to win and hates to lose, which is expected from a person that plays the game with total passion. He always hopes to gain the respect of his teammates and his opponents through his total effort on the field.

With the countless accolades that Jeff has been awarded, his only regret is not playing an entire season with one of the super teams, but credits the USSSA program with allowing him to travel the country, meet great people, and play with some great teams. He states, “The friendships that I have gained through softball will last a lifetime.”

In his 24 years of softball participation, which began in 1986 with the Peoria based Hulick Electric team, Jeff has found state, NIT, and world tournament success with such teams as Bunca Car Wash (1990 Class A World Champions), Sunnyvale (2nd in Class AA World in 1998), and perhaps the best team that he had played for in Long Haul Trucking (1999 & 2000 Class AA World Champions & Runner-up at the Major World Series).

As a primary hot corner player (3rd base), Jeff captured many all-world selections and defensive MVP awards, while also receiving numerous NIT MVP awards at A & AA classifications.

It was evident during Jeff’s early years, that he would find success on the diamond, as he played baseball at East Waterloo High School before taking his talents to the University of Iowa, where he earned all-conference recognition his junior and senior years, before being drafted by the New York Yankees where he played 2 seasons, while reaching the AA level.

Looking back at his quarter of century participation, he wants to be remembered as the guy that always came to play by playing hard and was the clutch player that got that hit when it meant the most.  For the teams that played against Jeff over the years, they will testify that he has accomplished his goal.

2012 Male Player: Mike Kreher

Mike Kreher

After 25 years of softball participation, Mike Kreher has only one regret. That he is, no longer able to compete competitively in a sport that brought him so much enjoyment, success, and friendships.

After a very successful high school baseball career at St. Henry’s High School and a state championship with the Belleville Legion program, Mike received a college baseball scholarship, while also playing soccer collegiately.

He began his softball playing days in the summer of 1969, after being asked to participate by Jim Scheibe with the 59’S team, prior to Rich Kaiser steering him to competitive softball with the Loggers in 1974.  This led him to the Budweiser team, which won the state title in 1984, prior to finishing second in the world tournament.

With a .600 plus lifetime batting average and over 500 homeruns, while playing mostly third base during his career, he earned all-state and all-world honors.

His most memorable softball moment occurred during the Worth Invitational Tournament at Tullohama, Tennessee, when he and his brothers Leon and Larry hit back to back to back home runs. He also recognizes his two brothers along with Mike O’Conner and Denny Albers as the best players that he had the opportunity to play with.

He also recognizes the USSSA as a great avenue to competitive softball through their well-run tournaments.

Mike hopes to be remembered as a player that always hustled and never gave up, no matter what the score!

2012 Male Player: Kurt Kozlowski

Kurt Kozlowski

Kurt Kozlowski.jpeg

Being a champion, always seems to have found its way into Kurt Kozlowski’s resume of sports success stories. It could be in football where he was quarterback for Sycamore High School’s undefeated conference champions, or shortstop on another high school championship squad.

Being All-State also became the norm, as he was a two-time junior college all-state selection at shortstop prior to playing Division I baseball at the University of New Orleans.

This early success laid the groundwork for future softball success stories over the next 32 years of participation, as Kurt earned several all-state and all-NIT selections while playing Class B, prior to being an all-world team selection with the world champion Ken Beverage team in 2002.

While swatting over 1000 homeruns during his career, he played mostly leftfield for outstanding teams like Joe Danials, Illusions, DeKalb Chiefs, Joe Blacks, Tron Piping, and Ken’s Beverage. 

Kurt states that he has been very blessed to have played alongside some really great players. While mentioning, Dave Shortz, Al VanGampler, Jim Cushing, Brian Schultz, Danny Prater, Dave Villareal, and Larry Hayse to name a few.  He also sighted Dave Shortz and Dave Campuzaro as two of the best coaches that he had played for.

Kurt says he wants to be remembered as a player that loved every part of the game. Kurt don’t worry, with your induction into the Hall of Fame class of 2012, you will be remembered as such.