Jim Kelley was the type of individual that every team would want for their team sponsor. A man who cares not only about his team, but about all the people who are associated with the game of softball. In 1972, he contacted one of the better teams in the Rockford area and asked them if he could sponsor them the next season. His goal was simple, he wanted to sponsor a class team from his home area, Rockford, that would be able to compete with any other top team from northern Illinois.
In a year that his business was not doing as well as he hoped, he would not drop the sponsorship of his team. Somehow, he found a way to come up with the money needed to keep his team going in that lean business year.
He made one demand from his players: they must conduct themselves as gentlemen on and off the softball field. He made it clear to his team that if they did not do so, he would not sponsor them as a team.
His 1975 team dropped their very first game at the USSSA Class A World Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. This team reached back and rolled off five straight wins and increased fan support for the “Classy Team” from Northern Illinois. Team manager Dewey Everts asked him to sit with his team in the dugout during these games and he refused saying, “Dewey, if you don’t mind, I am so proud to be the sponsor of this team I’d rather just walk through the stands.”
In 1985, his Kelley’s RMA team won the USSSA Men’s Class B Divisional Title in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was proud that the players from other Rockford area teams would stay to cheer for his team after they had been eliminated from the tournament. Jim was so happy for this additional fan support that he invited all of them to stay overnight at his expense to help cheer their local team on the finals the next day. To show his pleasure with those that accepted his offer, he bought them dinner as his way of saying thank you.
The late Jim Kelley was a man who should not be remembered for his generosity to the game, but as a man who softball should remember as a friend to the game who always demanded that those with him treat the opposition, umpires, fans and tournament directors with the utmost respect at all times.