Ken Paulson had a hand in just about every aspect of the Illinois USSSA from the mid-70s to the early-90s. As a coach, umpire, organizer, program and tournament director, Paulson was one of the keys to making the organization a viable force in softball.
“I think, above all, he wanted to be a part of a first-class organization and set out to make USSSA in the state of Illinois, the best organization to play in,” longtime friend, colleague and fellow Hall of Fame inductee Bob Papich said.
From his start in 1974, until his retirement in 1996, Paulson worked with anad around some of the best individuals to work in Illinois USSSA softball. In 1976, he umpired the Men’s Class A Regional, working the finals with another Hall of Fame inductee Vic DiGiovanni.
Paulson attended his first National Umpires Clinic in Lake Tahoe, Nevada in 1977. In 1979, with Illinois State Umpire-In-Chief Ken Franzen, he started giving State Umpire Clinics not only in Rockford, but throughout Illinois. Reflecting the respect he’d earned over a decade of umpiring, he was chosen to give the National Clinic in Milwaukee in 1988.
“He knew the rule book as well as anybody that I ever came across,” Papich said. “His preparation for rule book interpretation meetings was over and above what you would expect. Ken would bring in several poles and a cross bar that would be set up at the ten-foot level so that umpires would get the feel of calling balls and strikes. He really cared about the Illinois umpires and wanted them to be the best in the USSSA. His enthusiasm was contagious amongst the umpires.”
It wasn’t just officials that Paulson inspired and challenges with his high expectations. His first involvement in softball was as coach of a Women’s team from 1974 through 1981 and they participated in numerous State and NITs in Class A and B before there were Divisional Tournaments.
“As a coach of a women’s slow pitch team, he was a great teacher,” Papich said. “He expected his players to hit behind the runner and move them more than a base. He taught fundamentals and his team was always competitive.”
So were the leagues his teams played in. Paulson and fell Hall of Fame inductee Bob Parvin started the Viking Lanes Women’s League in 1978, which is considered the best competitive league in the area.
That same year, Paulson because a USSSA Director, and was active until 1993; though still considered a director, he is inactive.
Among his titles, Paulson was the first Men’s State Coordinator in the history of the USSSA and chairman of the 16-inch program for four years.
Finally, as a tournament director, he was able to make the hard calls and that, as most tournament directors know, does not always endear you to the teams and players.
“The efforts that Ken put in to the slow pitch game in the state of Illinois helped make the USSSA the group you wanted to play if you wanted to be the best and to play against the best,” Papich said.
That’s an opinion seconded by Illinois USSSA State Director – and Ken’s wife – Brenda Paulson.
“If it had not been for Ken’s support and dedication to the program, the Illinois USSSA would not be nearly the program it has been,” Brenda Paulson said. “Countless umpire clinics, earlier years of league meetings, ‘road trips’ throughout Illinois and the rest of the Great Lakes and Central Division and numerous National and Divisional meetings. Last, but not least, the financial backing he has given during the early years. His obsession became my obsession as well.”
The Illinois USSSA tries to express its appreciation for Ken’s hard work and dedication by welcoming him into the ranks of its Hall of Fame.