John "Smiley" Sturgill
In a softball career that has covered over 40 years in many facets of the USSSA, John “Smiley” Sturgill has seen it and done it all. A current member of the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Committee, Smiley has been a player, coach, umpire and director since 1965.
In the 1965 season, he started as a pinch runner and occasional substitute for the Grasshopper Tap.
Smiley played on such teams as Dach Fence, The Boyz and Sands Hotel, after which he hung up the spikes in 1998 following the victory at the Master’s 40 & Over State Tournament.
As a coach, Smiley’s career began in 1973 when he started his own Dach Fence team. He continued to coach for 27 years until he retired following the 2000 season.
Over the years, his teams, starting with The Boyz of Hayden’s Sports’ Class C Championship in 1986, he won nine State Titles. In 1987, The Boyz finished the season with a 103-18 record, which included winning seven consecutive tournaments.
“That [The Boyz] is the team I think I was the proudest of,” said Sturgill of the 1987 club.
In 1998, he managed his Illusions Softball Club to a Class B State Championship and then in his final season as coach in 2000, L.T.’s Bar and Grill sent him out a winner by capturing the Super C State Title.
Along with all the playing and coaching he was doing, Smiley started umpiring in 1980, eventually becoming one of the top umpires in the state. In the 24 years he donned the red shirt and black hat, Sturgill did men’s and women’s slow pitch, men’s fast pitch and girl’s youth fast pitch, umpiring upwards of 300 games a year. He also ran clinics at some park districts and assisted in training at national clinics. For 16 consecutive years, he umpired in State Tournaments in all classes, with the biggest honor being a Women’s Class A World Tournament that was held in Rockford. In 1992, he was awarded the USSSA Umpire of the Year Award.
Smiley became a USSSA director in 1982 for the Plano Softball League. He continued as director for 20 years with the last two being assistant director to Brenda Paluson when he was in charge of the men’s slow pitch program. He has been a state director for all of the men’s classes at some point and won the Director of the Year Award for Outstanding Performance in 1990. He has been on the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Committee since it was started in 1996.
It was never a question whether Smiley would be inducted into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame, just a matter of when. He has left an indelible mark on USSSA softball with his work on and off the field of play. We honor all of Smiley’s accomplishments by welcoming him into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.